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Hot putter lifts Wie near top of leaderboard

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PHOENIX – Michelle Wie ended Friday’s round with a thunderbolt.

She dropped an 18-foot birdie putt that ignited a roar across Marriott’s Wildfire Golf Club, with the giant gallery reveling in her name moving to the top of the leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Wie may not be making the earth quake the same way Tiger Woods is doing with his resurgence on the men’s tour, but she’s rocking the desert air.

A big turnout showed up to see if Wie can make a run at back-to-back victories after winning the HBSC Women’s World Championship in her last start. They weren’t disappointed.

There’s momentum building in Wie’s game, excitement over the possibility she may be poised to make a run at something special with the year’s first major just two weeks away.

“Yesterday, I was wondering, `Don’t all these people have to work?’” said Brittany Lincicome, who played alongside Wie. “Today, there were even more people out here. It was pretty incredible.”

Lincicome and Jin Young Ko helped Wie put on a show with all three players moving into contention.

Wie shot 4-under-par 68, Lincicome 66. They were both tied for the lead when they walked off the course at the end of the morning wave. Ko shot 69 and was just one back.

With the ANA Inspiration coming up, the women are looking to find their best form. Wie and her playing partners looked as if they’re all getting ready to take a leap into Poppie’s Pond.

Wie won last week.

Lincicome won the season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

Ko won the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open last month.


Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup


“Everyone was having a good time feeding off all the birdies,” Lincicome said. “Our group had quite a few birdies today.”

With the cold, blustery winds that made Thursday so difficult easing up, Friday returned to the birdie fest typically experienced here.

Wie continues to roll a hot flat stick that is getting everyone’s attention.

“Her putting is unbelievable now,” Lincicome said. “I asked her yesterday, can I be your Solheim Cup partner? From 20 feet, it’s like everything is going  in, even the big breakers from right to left.”

Wie hit just eight fairways and 13 greens in the second round, but her short game is serving her well.

“People don’t realize how versatile her short game is, how much imagination she has around the greens,” said David Leadbetter, her swing coach. “It fits in with her personality. She’s very creative, and she has a lot of shots.”

The difference now is she finishing off with her putter. She is eighth on the LPGA in putts per greens in regulation. She was 120th two years ago.

“She has all the components of her game going right now,” Leadbetter said. “And the thing is, she didn’t hit any balls last week. She came out cold this week.”

Wie had collagen injections in both wrists after winning the HSBC Women’s World Championship. She took all last week off, per doctor’s orders.

It didn’t affect Wie’s putting.

“This is the best I’ve seen her putt in years,” Leadbetter said.

Wie’s putter helped her erase mistakes on Friday.

“I felt like I made a couple stupid errors out there today, but made up for it with some good putts,” she said.

With Wildfire Golf Club’s history as a birdie fest, the weekend could turn into a putting contest. In the past, that might not have worked out so well for Wie, but she’s different player on the greens this year.