Wie shines but Park grabs lead

Schoolgirl golf sensation Michelle Wie’s second professional round was a gem, but South Korean Grace Park emerged with the halfway lead on Friday in the $850 000 Samsung World Championship.

Wie’s seven-under 65 was her lowest round on the LPGA tour, where she played 24 events as an amateur before making her precocious pro debut this week.

It put her at nine-under 135, sharing second place two shots behind Park and alongside Swedish superstar Annika Sorenstam and LPGA rookie of the year Paula Creamer.

As Sorenstam faltered late, Park blazed up the leader board. She rallied from a double-bogey at the par-four fourth with eight birdies in a six-under 66 for 11-under 133.

“I’m feeling good,” said Park, who has battled injuries all year, including a recurring back problem that kept her out for a month and a neck injury. “For the last month or so I’ve been working very hard.
I kept telling myself it’s never too late to play well again, and I wanted to finish the season well. I’m glad that it’s turning around.”

Park carded three consecutive birdies starting at number 10 and turned the trick again on 15 to 17 to take the lead. She will be paired with Wie in the final group on Saturday.

“I have had a few chances to play with Michelle,” Park said. “I think she is a sweet girl. She is a wonderful player, very strong and got great skills. But to me she is still a 16-year-old. When she talks to me, she is like a little sister. We’ll have fun playing together.”

Wie nearly got to 10-under, but her birdie putt at 18 rolled around the lip of the cup before refusing to fall.

“I think the big difference was it was my second day [as a pro],” Wie said of her improvement on her two-under effort of Thursday. “I was at ease today.”

Wie, who last week signed contracts with Nike and Sony worth an estimated $10-million, started with a birdie at the first and added four more before the turn. She fired back-to-back birdies on 11 and 12, and then parred her way in.

She said she hadn’t realised how tense she was during the first round until Friday.

“I came out relaxed today. I could really feel the difference, and I had a lot of fun,” said Wie, who had the presence of mind to ask for, and receive, relief when she noticed some bees buzzing around a bush that her tee shot at 14 found.

“One day I watched TV and I saw this one player, he was in a bush, and he had all of these fire ants in the bush and he got relief,” she said. “I remembered that, and I asked the rules official if I can get relief because I’m allergic to bees.”

Sorenstam had moved to 11-under with an eagle at the 12th, but gave up two bogeys in her last three holes to settle for a 71.

Sorenstam engaged in a lengthy and spirited discussion with a rules official at 18 as to what relief she was entitled to after she landed with the score board blocking her shot to the green.

“I don’t understand why the score board was still in my way,” she said. “I thought I could get a complete relief. I thought that was the rule. They said, no, it’s a straight shot. So we disagreed.”

The 35-year-old Swede, who erased a three-shot deficit to beat Park by three strokes here last year, is seeking her fifth World Championship title.

With a victory here, Sorenstam would join Mickey Wright for the most victories at a single event. Wright won the Sea Island Open five times in a seven-year span starting in 1957.

But Park is hoping she can erase the memory of last year.

“I’m very excited to be in the position that I’m in,” Park said. “Obviously, I had a sour finish last year but, you know, I’m leading again, and I hope to have a different story at the end of the tournament.”—Sapa-AFP

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