Perhaps it was just a matter of mild tinkering that kept Michelle Wie from fully reaping the benefits that can come with a switch to a long putter. The 6-foot-plus LPGA player put the long stick into play at the Evian Masters, but has really caught fire with it at the Canadian Women’s Open.
Wie is tied for the lead through 54 holes with Tiffany Joh and Ai Miyazato at 12 under at Hillsdale G&CC.
Wie seeks to become the first player to win this event in consecutive years since Pat Bradley did so in 1985-86 when the event was an LPGA major known as the du Maurier Classic. She credits hard work with her new putter as influential in her putting performance – averaging 27.66 putts per round.
“I’ve been working really hard at my putting,” Wie said. “Finally I kind of figured out a grip that I like, and I’ve been going at it for a couple of weeks now. I’m getting the hang of it, just trying to make some putts out there. That’s the most important thing.”
Joh grabbed the early clubhouse lead with 7-under 65 that could have been even better. The UCLA product and amateur standout is seeking her first LPGA win. Her previous best finish is a T-25 at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. Perhaps that explains her incredulous feelings toward her hot start on Saturday.
“It was really unexpected, so every time I’d make a putt, I’d turn around and look at my caddie and be like, wow, that went in. And pretty soon I think around the 11th or 12th hole I realized what I was doing, and I kind of tightened up a little bit and hit a couple wayward shots. I hit one just delicious chili dip on the par-5 12th,” she said.
Wie would earn her third professional win with a successful Sunday. Miyazato would earn her second title in a month, having won the Evian Masters in July – an event that will become a major championship in 2013.
The Japanese standout welcomes the possibility of windy conditions on Sunday due to Hurricane Irene’s march up the east coast.
Miyazato said, “I grew up in an area where it was windy, so I actually like playing in the windy situations. But if it rains, it will definitely be difficult. But because I’m used to those situations, I think there will be no problem keeping my tempo.”
Angela Stanford and Brittany Lincicome are a shot back of the lead trio at 11 under. Cristie Kerr, Na Yeon Choi, Jiyai Shin, Becky Morgan and Song-Hee Kim are just two shots off the pace.
Sunday tee times were moved up by an hour-and-a-half in anticipation of a possible strike from Hurricane Irene in the Montreal area. Players will go off the first and tenth tees in groups of three beginning at 7:00 a.m. ET.