Tied for 3rd, Wie keeps poise, sense of humor

15-year-old says `54' today would beat Sorenstam

LPGA Championship notebook

Golf

June 12, 2005|By Paul McMullen and Kim Phelan | Paul McMullen and Kim Phelan,SUN STAFF

Michelle Wie is seven strokes off the pace, but just two out of second place and carrying a sense of humor as solid as her game.

"Fifty-four would definitely win," she said, when asked what it would take to catch Annika Sorenstam today in the final round of the McDonald's LPGA Championship.

Wie understands that Sorenstam isn't in the habit of backing up to the pack. The Swede is nearly halfway to a Grand Slam, but Wie has more than held up her end at a historic major. The first amateur ever in an event that began in 1955, Wie will begin today in the penultimate pairing, tied for third with Jeong Jang and three others.

Wie shot a 71 yesterday, thanks to a tap-in birdie on No. 18 that followed an up-and-down front nine - three birdies and three bogeys - and eight straight pars. Sorenstam and Jang are the only other players in the tournament with three rounds under par, as Wie has shown uncommon poise for a 15-year-old.

After two days of still, stifling weather, she struggled with a gusting wind.

"All of a sudden, the humidity was gone," Wie said. "My driver was going farther and I had to adapt to that."

Wie, who finished second in the SBS Open at Turtle Bay earlier this season, is in position to record her best finish in a major. She was fourth in the Kraft Nabisco Championship last year.

Staying in contention

Laura Davies struggled home, playing the last three holes in 3-over, but she might have produced the shot of the tournament, a mighty whack out of deep rough after a lousy drive on No. 14 that led to a most improbable birdie.

Cristie Kerr was curt after matching the low round of the tournament with a 67 that featured five birdies in a seven-hole stretch on the back nine. The season's second-leading money winner had little to say afterward.

"I just kept the momentum going," said Kerr, who began the day at 2-over but ended it at 3-under and tied for 10th.

Lorena Ochoa, one of the players featured with Kerr in the LPGA's "These Girls Rock" publicity campaign, was more expansive after her 68 moved her 20 spots up the leader board, to a tie for eighth at 4-under.

"I was just feeling really good," said Ochoa, a 22-year-old from Mexico. "I was relaxed, and things started going my way. I'm just happy that I have a chance. Just to get in the top three is really good. Anything can happen here."

Comfort zone

The plushest seating does not come cheap at a professional tournament. The five hospitality tents have been rented out to 16 companies, including local firms like Legg-Mason and McCormick. Accommodating up to 220 fans, the tents can run $10,000 to $40,000 per day, with catering extra.

Seven elevated outdoor viewing areas near greens hold up to 25 spectators and run $15,000 per day, and the rental fees included several spots in the pro-am.

Eye on Sorenstam

The media contingent includes nine men and women from Sweden, representing print and electronic outlets. They're following Sorenstam, cheering her on. If she holds up today and moves halfway to the Grand Slam, they'll go to Denver next week and follow that story at the June 23-26 U.S. Open.

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