GLADSTONE, N.J. – Michelle Wie found a way to win on a day the Sybase Match Play Championship lost some of its top-name attractions.
Wie rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole to take the lead and posted a 2-up victory over a tough Stacy Prammanasudh on Thursday in the opening round of the $1.5 million tournament that was revived by Sybase after a two-year absence.
Top-seeded Jiyai Shin and No. 2 Ai Miyazato also advanced in the 64-player field, but No. 3 Suzann Pettersen, No. 6 Anna Nordqvist, No. 16 Brittany Lincicome – who won this event the last time it was played – and No. 17 Se Ri Pak all were eliminated.
Wie needed a round of seven birdies, including a 50-foot chip in on No. 1, and bogey to get past a determined Prammanasudh, who played the opening 17 holes in 4 under.
“It was one of those matches where you had to make birdie to win,” Wie said. “So kind of with that mindset, I went out and grinded and just tried to make birdies.”
Wie really picked up her play after making a foolish bogey on the par-3 third. With the match all square, she rammed a 15-foot birdie putt five feet past the hole and missed the par-saving attempt.
Walking off the green, Wie punched herself in the right hip area.
“I think when I hit myself I was angry,” Wie said. “But I do that so that I get angry and forget about it and move on. I just said it was a stupid error, a stupid mistake.”
The emotional release got Wie going. She birdied five of the final 10 holes, and had another 10-foot chance lip out on No. 14, when she could have gone 2-up.
Prammanasudh took advantage on the next hole and evened the match with a 3-foot birdie putt, but Wie sank one on the next hole to take the lead for good.
“It was about a 30-footer and it was a double break,” Wie said. “I just picked my line and hit it and thankfully it did what I saw it did.”
Wie closed out the match at No. 18 when Prammanasudh hit her second shot into a bunker 80 yards short of the green and put her third into very high grass on a steep lie above the green. She barely moved her fourth shot and conceded the hole with Wie in birdie position 5 feet from the cup.
“It’s match play, you never know what is going to happen. I played my best,” Prammanasudh said.
The top two seeds had easy matches on the hilly course. Shin beat Kyeong Bae 3 and 2, and Miyazato, the winner of three of the first six events of the season, topped Jeong Jang 4 and 3.
Pettersen, who is ranked No. 3 in the world, was eliminated by 49-year-old Juli Inkster on the 21st hole.
Inkster made a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th to force extra holes, then finished off Pettersen with a 4-foot par putt on the par-3 third.
“I was never up in the match all day, so it’s just match play, it’s weird,” Inkster said. “I don’t think we both played our best golf, but that’s the thing with match play. Even though you’re playing the third-best player in the world, if you make a few putts and hit a few good shots here and there, you have a shot.”
Nordqvist dropped a 2-up decision to Shi Hyun Ahn.
Pak, who won last week’s event in a playoff in Mobile, Ala., dropped out with a 3-and-2 loss to Azahara Munoz, and 62nd-seeded Beatriz Recari upset Brittany Lincicome, the match-play winner in 2006 at Hamilton Farm.
Recari won 1-up despite giving up 60-70 yards off the tee to the long-hitting Lincicome.
“I had to be very strong mentally,” said Recari, the 23-year-old Spaniard making her fourth LPGA Tour start. “I just had to focus on my strengths.”
Fourth-seeded Yani Tseng, No. 5 Cristie Kerr and No. 7 Karrie Webb also advanced,
Tseng beat Wendy Ward 2 and 1, Kerr topped Meaghan Francella 4 and 3, and Webb eliminated Eunjung Yi 4 and 3.