Wie Struggles Donald Leads at Sony

By Associated PressJanuary 11, 2007, 5:00 pm
2006 Sony OpenHONOLULU -- Luke Donald didn't have much of a following Thursday, so he barely heard any applause even as he made birdies on half his holes for a 7-under 63 and a one-shot lead in the Sony Open.

The crowds were with Michelle Wie. And there wasn't much cheering there, either.

'I heard no noise, really,' Donald said. 'I got one score update -- I wasn't sure if it was true -- 8 over after eight.'

Luke Donald
Luke Donald fired a opening-round 7-under 63 on Oahu.
No, that wasn't true. She was 8 over after nine holes.

Playing the Sony Open for the fourth straight year, Wie hit into the water twice, the bunker twice, clipped two palm trees and didn't hit a fairway until the 15th hole. Headed for her worst score ever, the 17-year-old kept battling and played the back nine in even par for a 78.

That's one stroke better than her opening round a year ago at Waialae.

But it still leaves her chances of making the cut about the same as the second round being postponed by snow.

'Even though I was playing bad, I knew I could always come back if I get the ball in the fairway,' said Wie, who managed that just one time on a breezy day along the shores of Oahu. 'At the end, I actually felt like I was playing golf.'

She was in next-to-last place, five shots clear of Hawaii club pro Abe Mariano (83).

The best score by a Hawaii teen belonged to 16-year-old Tadd Fujikawa, one year younger and a foot shorter than Wie. Fujikawa, who qualified for the U.S. Open last year, opened with a 1-over 71 at Waialae, the same as Kapalua winner Vijay Singh.

K.J. Choi played in stiffer wind in the afternoon, made the turn in 30 and settled for a 64. Will MacKenzie continued riding his wave and, despite being bummed about a three-putt par on the 18th, shot a 65 and was tied for third with Jim Furyk.

Donald is at No. 10 in the world ranking, and his game has looked as though he belongs there. He only has two PGA Tour victories, including the Honda Classic last year, but his confidence is building and his game is tidier than ever.

'I'm getting better every year,' Donald said. 'It has not quite yet resulted in lots of wins, winning majors, that kind of stuff, but I feel like I'm getting a lot closer than I was a year or two ago. I've gotten to the stage where I'm expecting to be up there and contending, and winning each week I play.'

For Wie, expectations are headed the other direction.

Her swing no longer is long and fluid, rather mechanical than when she first played the Sony Open at age 14 and shot 68 in the second round to miss the cut by one shot. Her weakness then was her short game, which is now her strength.

It kept a bad round from being embarrassing on Thursday.

A sign in someone's backyard down the right side of the first hole said, 'Wie??? Why!!!' She never saw it because she duck-hooked her tee shot, fortunate it didn't go onto the practice range. She saved par with a 10-foot putt.

More fortune was on her side at No. 2, when another drive tugged to the left hopped along the rocks framing the lake, then took one last bounce into the rough. That didn't help, though, because the next shot looked like a sharp grounder to second base.

And on the next hole, she pulled another shot into the water and made an 8-foot putt to escape with bogey.

The worst tee shot came at No. 5, yanked some 40 yards left of the fairway into a creek next to the seventh green. That led to double bogey, and she picked up another double bogey on the sixth by twice clipping the palm trees.

And on the par-5 ninth, she sliced it so badly it went off the property and into a canal.

Q-school grad Stephen Marino (68) and Gavin Coles of Australia (71) both suggested that her right wrist might have been hurting Wie more than she let one. Wie has had it wrapped tightly each day, and said she has been going through acupuncture.

'I don't know that her wrist was doing her any good,' Coles said. 'I think she's not letting people know that it's hurting. But she's got a nice short game. She managed very, very well. She has a nice head on her shoulders.'

Wie said she hurt the wrist while hitting off a cart path at the Samsung World Championship in October, and it hasn't healed. She does not know if it's tendons or ligaments causing the pain, but she did not dwell on it.

'Every kind of injury hurts a little bit. It's always in the back of your mind,' Wie said. 'But it is what it is, and I'm not going to make any excuses.'

She didn't make a birdie until a 6-iron through out of the rough and through a gap in the palm trees to 15 feet on No. 12. Her other birdie came on the par-3 17th, where she hit 5-iron into 18 feet.

Playing the back in even par allowed Wie to end a dubious streak of three straight rounds in the 80s competing against the men. She opened with a 79 last year, then followed with a 68 to match her record as the lowest score by a woman on the PGA Tour.

And she still believes that's possible.

She attributed her poor driving to a careless mistake in her setup, which she did not want to describe.

'If I just get everything right, get the ball in the fairway -- get the ball anywhere in play, actually -- I think I can definitely tear this golf course up,' she said.

Arron Oberholser withdrew for the second straight week with a back injury and was replaced by Brendon DeJonge of South Africa, who made his PGA Tour debut in tough circumstances. He was in Charlotte, N.C., at 2 p.m. Wednesday when told he was in the field, arrived in Honolulu at 3:45 a.m. and stayed up a few hours before teeing off. He opened with a 69. ... Wie didn't have the best turnaround. J.B. Holmes went 40-30 to finish at even par.

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