Four laps into the LPGAs 90-hole Fall Classic, it was a familiar tale: Teen finds fairways, greens, the occasional birdie putt and puts her head down as she races past the assembled media on her way to a tour card and some much-needed normalcy in a career that has been anything but off-the-shelf.
Wies Saturday may have been her most statistically sound effort of the week, if not her most creative. She didnt miss a fairway until her fifth hole despite a more aggressive game plan that featured nearly twice as many drivers from the tee (13) then shed hit in two rounds on the Legends Course (eight), and needed just 28 putts.
The key to her round came during a windy closing stretch when Wie scrambled for par at that 15th, 17th and 18th holes to cap an otherwise uneventful round. Its a formula that has played well at LPGA International ' doing more than just enough, but never over doing it.
Even when she ran afoul of her fairways-and-greens blueprint, she found a way to avoid too much damage. At the par-4 eighth hole she pulled her drive into the woods, took a penalty drop and wisely played to the middle of the green for a two-putt bogey. It was her only blemish and set the stage for an intriguing final round that will give Wie a chance to win her first individual title since 2003.
Of course the ultimate rub is that what is being billed as Wies most important tournament to date is not dependent on whether she wins or ties for 19th. The rewards, at least symbolically, are the same.
While Wies plight was the days biggest news, it was hardly the only interesting headline on a warm and breezy Saturday.
Others to watch as the games final exam gets underway on Sunday will be Louise Stahle and Sunny Oh, who clawed their way into the top 20 thanks to gutsy rounds on the more demanding Legends Course. Oh carded a 67 to vault from 41st to 18th, while Stahle climbed from 41st to 12th with a 65 that was quietly the days best effort.
Japanese amateur Mika Miyazato, who was among the first-day leaders before struggling to rounds of 74-72, rebounded with a 68 on the Champions Course that left her alone in 11th place.
The sub-plots, however, will be secondary when Wie and Lewis take to the first tee on Sunday. Lewis, who hadnt played with Wie until the sectional Q-School event in California earlier this year, continued her solid play on Day 4 and missed four chances late in her round to put even more distance between herself and her high-profile competitor.
Lewis, whose worst round of the week is a 1-under 71 on Friday at the Legends Course, bogeyed the par-4 15th after starting her day with a front-nine 31.
I missed five putts probably inside 10 feet on the back nine, said Lewis, the 2007 NCAA individual champion who tied for third at this years U.S. Womens Open. It could have been really good today.
Although Wie continues to avoid the press, there is a good chance the Hawaiian phenom would have echoed Lewis comments if she would have talked: I am just out here to win, Lewis said. I havent thought about top 20 all week. Its just not a goal of mine. Im here to win.