ROGERS, Ark. – With a pair of wins in the last 11 months, Michelle Wie is finally turning potential into success.
This week, the big-hitting former prodigy will try for her second straight LPGA Tour victory, part of a loaded field at the P&G NW Arkansas Championship. The 54-hole event begins Friday and also includes money leader Jiyai Shin, the defending champion, and world No. 1 Ai Miyazato.
In fact, 14 of the top 15 players in the Rolex rankings are entered, with only 10th-ranked Paula Creamer (thumb injury) missing. Wie, ranked No. 7, is coming off a victory late last month in the Canadian Women’s Open.
“I felt like it was a frustrating season for me so far because I felt like I played a lot better than what my scores were,” Wie said. “I guess that happens when you win it – everything just kind of falls into place, and hopefully it will happen again this week. … I see all the top players are here. I think it’s really great for the tournament.”
Wie has made all but two cuts since the start of 2009, her official rookie season, and she earned her first career victory in November at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.
She won in Canada by three strokes – her 12th top-10 finish in the last two seasons.
Last year in Arkansas, outlasting Angela Stanford and Sun Young Yoo in a sudden-death playoff. This is the fourth year for th4 event at Pinnacle Country Club, and with nothing else on the LPGA Tour schedule until Oct. 7, the sport’s top players have come to northwest Arkansas for the $2 million tournament, which is presented by Wal-Mart.
“First off, it’s a great purse and a great sponsor in P&G, and you know, great golf course and area, and those are all the things that you look for for a major golf tournament in drawing the top players in,” said Cristie Kerr, the world’s No. 2 player. “They have a good date on the schedule, for us – maybe not for the weather, but for us they have a good date on the schedule.”
Ah, yes. The weather.
In 2007, the tournament’s inaugural season, the event was called off after 18 holes because of rain. On Thursday, the 2010 edition got off to a rough start when the remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine forced the pro-am to be canceled.
“Wherever any cities have droughts, we’ve been fixing them wherever we go,” Wie said.
Shin said the greens seemed firm when she played earlier in the week, but that might change now.
“I was shocked and then really surprised, but today it’s getting soft,” she said.
Shin, Kerr and Miyazato have been battling to take over the mantle as the world’s top player since Lorena Ochoa retired in May. Miyazato has five victories this season, while Kerr has won twice and Shin once. In addition to being atop the world ranking, Miyazato trails only Shin on the money list.
“Really, all the top six or seven players on the money list is getting really close,” Miyazato said. “We have some tournaments like this, only three-day tournaments, so you need to be a little more aggressive and try to make some birdies out there.”
In addition to all the top players, former University of Arkansas star Stacy Lewis is in the field. She was leading when the 2007 tournament was called off because of bad weather, and although she’s still seeking her first career win, she’s No. 20 on the money list thanks to a runner-up finish (to Miyazato) in Mexico in May.
This event also includes another Razorback – current senior Kelli Shean, who received a sponsor’s exemption.