Michelle Wie is becoming a regular contender in major championships, only now as an adult.
She captivated women’s golf as a teenager, contending in three straight LPGA Tour majors when she was 16. That was when she still was trying to compete against the men, when she didn’t always look as if she was having fun and before injuries and criticism were a big part of her growing pains.
On another tough day at Pinehurst No. 2, the 24-year-old from Hawaii held it together Friday with two key par putts and finished with back-to-back birdies for a 2-under 68, giving her a three-shot lead going into the weekend at the U.S. Women’s Open.
“I think you look at the way Michelle has played the last six months and you look at her differently,” said Stacy Lewis, the No. 1 player in women’s golf who was four shots out of the lead. “I think she’s become one of the best ball-strikers on tour. She hits it really consistent. She knows where the ball’s going. And she’s figuring out how to win. That’s the big thing.”
For now, Wie had control. Her three-shot lead is the largest through 36 holes in the Women’s Open in 11 years.
She twice thought her shots were going off the turtleback greens, and twice she relied on her table-top putting stance to make long par saves. She finished with a 6-iron that set up a 12-foot birdie putt, and a 15-foot birdie on the par-5 ninth to reach 4-under 136.
“End of the day yesterday, I was thinking if I just did this again, that would be nice,” Wie said. “Finishing with two birdies is always great. It’s a grind out there. It’s not easy. Really grateful for the par putts that I made and some of the birdie putts that I made. I can’t complain. I’ll take it.”