ROGERS, Ark. – Michelle Wie shot a 7-under 64 – playing her first nine holes in 7-under 28 – to take the second-round lead Saturday in the Northwest Arkansas Championship.
Wie, trying for her second straight victory, had the lowest nine-hole score on the LPGA xthis year. She finished at 10 under, three strokes ahead of Juli Inkster (66), Yani Tseng (68) and Na Yeon Choi (68).
Wie started her round on No. 10 and birdied five of her first seven holes. She then made an uphill putt of about 35 feet on No. 18 for an eagle on the 515-yard par 5.
She made a tap-in birdie on No. 2 to move to 8 under on the day through 11 holes, but she slowed down a bit after that and will have to contend with several players Sunday as she tries to follow up on her win late last month in the Canadian Women’s Open.
“I chugged a Powerade and a Vitamin Water,” Wie said.
After beginning her career as a long-hitting phenom who tried to challenge the men, the 20-year-old Wie is beginning to realize her enormous potential. She’s made all but two cuts since the start of 2009, and she earned her first career victory in November at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.
On Sunday, she’ll be part of a tantalizing matchup with Inkster, the 50-year-old Hall of Famer trying to become the oldest player to win on the tour. Inkster was in contention last month at the Safeway Classic before being disqualified with a round remaining. During a lengthy wait with a hole backed up, she affixed a weight to a club and took some practice swings to stay loose, and a viewer watching the broadcast brought the violation to the attention of tournament officials.
Inkster’s rookie year (1983) was six years before Wie was born.
“It’s going to be like Beauty and the Beast out there,” Inkster said. “I don’t have the pretty swing or whatever. I just try to get the ball in the hole.”
Wie’s approach on No. 18 popped in and out of a greenside bunker before landing on the green to set up her long eagle putt. It was that kind of day for Wie – at least at the beginning.
Tseng, playing alongside her, patiently plodded along and was able to stay within striking distance of Wie.
“She played awesome today,” Tseng said. “I told my caddie, ‘Aw, she took all my birdies.”’
Wie played the four par 5s in 5 under Saturday, a six-stroke improvement from the first round. Inkster nearly made a long eagle putt of her own on No. 18, but it slid off the edge of the hole.
Several LPGA players have shot 29 this year for nine holes, but Wie’s 28 was the first. Ji Young Oh shot 7 under on a par-37 nine at the Safeway Classic.