MORELIA, Mexico – Michelle Wie’s game held together with the wind hollowing through the mountainside ravines at the Tres Marias Championship, shooting a 5-under 68 in Friday’s second round for a one-shot lead.
Wie led from fellow American Brittany Lincicome (67) and Japan’s Ai Miyazato (72).
But the gusts and the emotional ups-and-downs got to Lorena Ochoa, who fell five strokes off the pace with a 73 in her farewell tournament.
This is the last event for the No. 1-ranked Ochoa, under some pressure to deliver a victory for her adoring fans in Mexico – she has won this event three times – before stepping away.
“I’ll take it I guess with these conditions,” Ochoa said. “With all the emotions I am going through and the adrenalin it’s been a little bit tough.”
Wie beat the wind, and seems to love playing in Mexico where she won her first LPGA event 5 1/2 months ago in Ochoa’s Invitational in Guadalajara – Ochoa’s hometown.
“It’s fun over here,” Wie said. “It’s a good attitude over here; relaxed, great weather, great people and hopefully I can keep it going.”
It could have been even better for the Hawaiian, who pulled off a spectacular birdie on the 541-yard 16th, but then stumbled with two bogeys to close.
She hit a booming drive downwind on 16 – her father B.J. Wie estimated it at 380 yards – but hit an 8-iron approach from 165 yards over the green into loose gravel. She chipped out, but knocked it across the green into a bunker. She then holed out from 70 feet, lifting both arms skyward to celebrate the shot.
“Holing out the bunker shot was kind of funny,” said Wie, breaking into a smile.
Ochoa tried to force a few laughs, but it wasn’t easy – even for a player recognized as one of the most likable and humble on the LPGA tour.
“I try not to think (about the retirement), but of course it is in my head,” said Ochoa, who has 27 career victories – including two majors – and has held the No. 1 ranking for three years.
“Today when I was struggling a little bit more, I was more frustrated than usual. But you try to smile. Trying to keep myself together and focus on the tournament is difficult.”
Ochoa, 28, chose to play Thursday and Friday with Miyazato and Natalie Gulbis. She called Miyazato “the nicest girl on the tour,” and she grew up playing junior golf, and college golf at Arizona with Gulbis.
Ochoa said her mind was wandering, walking with Gulbis and talking about the old days. Then she’d pull herself back to reality.
“All of a sudden I’d say: `Hello, but you are here.”’
“It was not my best day I guess,” Ochoa added. “I only have five or six players in front of me so I’m trying to be positive.”
Miyazato, who has won two of the first four LPGA events to reach No. 5 in the rankings, missed too many putts.
“The fairways were really firm today, and the greens were a little bit drier, so it was tough to make adjustments about my distance,” said Miyazato, who is from Japan’s southern island of Okinawa. “But I still had many chances out there.”
Lincicome had a hole-in-one on the par-3 13th, using a pitching wedge to hole the 125-yard shot. It was her first on the LPGA Tour.
The American has played all four events this season, playing well but never putting it all together – until Friday.
“I felt like I’ve been playing really, really well,” she said. “Just if I’m hitting it well, I’m not putting well. If I’m putting well, I’m not hitting it well. It’s nice to kind of see it coming together, and of all places Mexico because this is not normally one of my favorite golf courses.”