Being paired with Michelle Wie isn't quite like being paired with Tiger Woods, outside the abundance of Nike swooshes. But it does result in some of the same challenges, as Shanshan Feng learned Thursday.
Feng, who finished her first round of the McDonald's LPGA Championship alone in third place at 5-under-par, was paired with Wie and Christina Kim, which provided for a lively morning.
Fans' fascination with Wie drew the biggest following of the day, which meant a number of golf novices were jostling for position, many of them not exactly concerned with Feng's pre-shot routine.
On the 15th hole, Wie made a beautiful birdie putt, getting up and down from an awkward lie in the bunker, and the gallery immediately began moving toward the next tee. Feng, who still had a short birdie putt, wasn't exactly thrilled. Kim, who wore a microphone during the first round at the behest of the Golf Channel, pleaded with the crowd to wait for Feng to putt and was only moderately successful. Feng stepped up and rolled in the birdie try anyway.
"Christina said to the crowd that we still had one left," Feng said. "That made me feel good. After this round, I think more people know me. Maybe they won't leave next time before I've putted."
Although there are 122 international players on the LPGA Tour, including 47 from South Korea, Feng is the first Chinese golfer to play on the tour.
"I think I played really good today," Feng said. "I am happy with how my game is playing right now, and I just hope that I can play good all this week."
Wie finished with a 2-under 70, while Kim shot a 2-over 74.
Ochoa has bad finish
World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa returned from a monthlong break and looked good during most of her first round Thursday, but back-to-back bogeys on her final two holes put a bit of a damper on her even-par round of 72.
"Obviously, I did not have a good finish," said Ochoa, who went immediately to the practice range. "Hopefully, I can get off to a good start tomorrow and make some birdies."
Ochoa has won 21 titles since 2006, and two of those have come this season, but she said before the tournament that she feels as if she's not 100 percent and that her game isn't where she wants it to be.
"I don't want to say I'm in the best shape ever right now because it's not true," Ochoa said. "But I'm making improvements, and that's keeping me motivated and keeping me happy."
Castrale's Terps connection
First-round leader Nicole Castrale has a minor Maryland connection. She's represented by former University of Maryland basketball player Greg Nared, whose daughter Jackie signed a letter of intent to play for Brenda Frese at Maryland.
"He's a great guy, and he definitely has ties here now with his oldest daughter playing here," Castrale said.
Nared, who used to represent Wie, followed Castrale around the course Thursday accompanied by his youngest daughter, Jaime, who was the subject of a lengthy New York Times Magazine article last year that singled her out as the best 12-year-old girls basketball player in the country.