Wie off to solid start at LPGA Q-School

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LPGA Tour _newDAYTONA BEACH, Fla. ' They gathered in the early morning chill to see greatness wrapped around a fearless youngster, but that show was playing a golf course away. Instead, the huddled masses that awoke before dawn were treated to a textbook, if not tactically superior, round by a relaxed teen working at three-quarter speed.
 

Wie Watch ' LPGA Q-School

Round 1
 
Score:
69 (-3); five strokes behind first-round leader Shiho Oyama.
 
Behind the scorecard: Wies ballstriking was nearly flawless on Day 1, with the teen missing just five fairways and four greens on the more-demanding Legends Course at LPGA International. If there was room for improvement it would be on the layouts slick greens. Wie needed 30 putts on Wednesday, including a sloppy three-putt from 18 feet at the 14th hole.
 
Quotable: She was really looking forward to this. Most people are like, Oh no, Q-School. But she has been really relaxed and excited about getting a chance to compete again, said David Leadbetter, Wies longtime swing coach.
 
Sight and sounds: A one-hour frost delay postponed Wies march to a tour card and a round that stretched past five hours made the day seem even longer. So long, in fact, that Wies threesome was placed on the clock for slow play after the 12th hole.
 


The fireworks those curious souls who lined the first tee on LPGA Internationals Legends Course early Wednesday to watch Michelle Wie begin her quest for an LPGA card were awaiting would come, but on a different golf course and courtesy a different phenom.
 
Those pyrotechnics were delivered by Japan wunderkind Shiho Oyama who scorched the statistically easier Champions Course to the tune of 8-under 64 in relative obscurity to take the first-round lead at LPGA Q-School.
 
What those who braved the chill to watch Wie got was Q-School 101, a middle-of-the-fairway, take-no-chances exhibition that is not what the golf world has come to expect from the former world-beater-in-waiting but exactly what the Fall Classic demands.
 
Pretty simple really, said David Leadbetter, Wies longtime swing coach. The big thing this week is not to make mistakes. That will kill you at Q-School and she only made one (mistake) today.
 
The recipe for Q-School success may not be sexy, but it is efficient.
 
For the day, Wie hit just four drivers on the 6,473-yard layout, missed just nine fairways, most of which by less than 2 yards, and four greens on her way to an opening 69 and a tie for sixth in her quest to finish inside the top 20 after five rounds and end her vagabond, professional existence.
 
Although Wie declined to talk with the media after her round, her play spoke volumes.
 
Following a sloppy three-putt bogey at the 14th hole from 18 feet, Wie played the final four holes in 2 under (birdie-par-par-birdie). She capped her day with a 25 footer for birdie at the 18th that prompted a high-five with caddie Tim Vickers.
 
Theres no point looking at leaderboards here, youre really just chasing a score, said Leadbetter, who estimated his star pupil would need five rounds near 70 to earn a tour card.
 
For much of the day the 19 year old was nearly flawless, missing birdie putts from 12, 8 and 20 feet at her first three holes before getting into red numbers on the par-4 fifth after hitting her approach shot to 2 feet. The birdie, however, wasnt even good enough to earn Wie a skin, as fellow competitor Alison Walshe dropped her approach into the cup for an eagle-2.
 
For the rest of the day it was all Michelle, all the time.
 
Even Oyama, who began her day with a 5-under 31 on her first nine holes, played her round with virtually no fanfare. She was followed on the leaderboard by Japanese amateur Mika Miyazato, whose bogey-free 66 also featured an opening nine of 31. Both rounds came on the more user-friendly Champions layout.
 
I could be more aggressive, said Miyazato of the Champions Course which gave up three of the 17 lowest cards on Day 1. The Legends is more narrow and tight, so maybe that course I will try to play a little safer.
 
Wie seemed less concerned with safe play as she was with control. Despite morning temperatures that delayed the start of play by about an hour, Wie plodded her way around the pine-lined layout thanks to three-quarter swings and sawed-off follow throughs.
 
Truth is, if not for a frosty putter Wie would have exceeded her high-profile swing coaches expectations.
 
Thats as good as Ive ever seen her hit it, said Leadbetter, who spent the week before Q-School working with Wie at ChampionsGate in Orlando. She has really been looking forward to this.
 
After her opening effort, the central Florida galleries are likely looking forward to Wie getting her turn on the Champions Course on Day 2. And getting her chance to be aggressive.
 

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