Feng leads Wie by one at LPGA’s first major of 2014
Angel Yin was asked if there was a player she wanted to meet this week at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, but was too shy to approach.
"Michelle Wie," said Yin, the 15-year-old high school freshman who shot a 4-under-par 68 on Thursday to finish a stroke behind her idol after the first round.
"If she sat next to me and said `Hi’ to me, I’d probably run."
The 24-year-old Wie laughed when told about Yin’s response.
"It’s crazy," Wie said. "These girls are starting to make me feel really old."
Wie played a four-hole stretch in 5 under, showing off all the talent that made her a star in her early teens and helped attract players like Yin to golf.
"I just felt comfortable out there," Wie said.
Wie ended up a stroke behind leader Shanshan Feng, lipping out a 3-foot par putt on the par-3 17th and settling for par and a 67 on the par-5 18th.
"I’ll take it," Wie said. "I’ll take a 67 here."
Feng shot a 66 in perfect morning conditions at Mission Hills in the first major championship of the year. The 24-year-old Chinese player had seven birdies and a bogey.
"This morning, it was playing easier because there was no wind," Feng said.
Wie birdied the par-5 ninth and par-4 10th, made a 25-foot eagle putt on the par-5 11th and moved into a tie for the lead with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-4 12th.
She got up-and-down for par from near a steep face in a bunker on the par-4 15th, hitting to 1 feet with her left foot almost 2 feet above her right.
"Just was aggressive on the holes I needed to be and conservative on the other holes," Wie said
Wie is making her 12th start in the tournament. She was ninth in 2003 at age 13, fourth the following year and tied for third at 16 in 2006.
"I think when you’re younger you’re kind of fearless," Wie said. "You don’t know what failure is."
Wie has two LPGA Tour victories, winning the 2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico and the 2010 Canadian Women’s Open. She has been in the top 16 in all five of her starts this year, finishing a season-best fourth in Thailand.
"I’m so grateful to have rounds like these," Wie said.
Feng won the 2012 LPGA Championship to become the tour’s first Chinese winner and had two victories late last year. She tied for 16th last week in the Kia Classic.
"The beginning of this year, I was kind of a little lost because I lost a little weight and my swing kind of changed a little," Feng said. "I wasn’t swinging very comfortably."
Paired with 58-year-old Hall of Famer Amy Alcott, Feng rebounded from a bogey on 15 with a birdie on par-4 16th and closed with two pars.
"I made a bogey on 15, and she was like, `OK, let’s make two birdies back in the last three holes,’" Feng said. "I was like, `Yes, ma’am.’ Then I only made one."
Alcott shot an 81 in her 36th start in the event she won in 1983, 1988 and 1991. In 1988, she became the first player to take the now-traditional victory leap into Poppie’s Pond.
"She was very sweet starting off and we were talkative," Alcott said. "She hits it very solid. Just a very, very talented young player."
Se Ri Pak birdied her final hole to match Wie at 67. The 36-year-old Pak won the last of her five major titles in 2006.
"Just a solid round," Pak said. "The greens got a little firmer, but I got pretty good distance control."
Yin, from the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia, was another stroke back with Amy Yang. The long hitter also played the event last year, tying for 55th.
"I think this course suits me really well," Yin said.
Yin missed the cut last week in the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, shooting 83-72 after earning a spot in the field as a Monday qualifier.
"I got really nervous," Yin said. "The first hole, I picked up the ball on the fringe and got penalized."
Anna Nordqvist, the winner in Carlsbad for her second victory of the year, opened with a 71. Playing partner Stacy Lewis, the 2011 winner, had a 73.
Lewis struggled off the tee, hitting drives to the right.
"If I can straighten out my driver I’ll be right there," Lewis said.
Sixteen-year-old Lydia Ko and Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, also a two-time winner this year, were in the group at 73, and defending champion Inbee Park had a 74.
Park is struggling with her putting after dominating on the greens last year when she swept the first three majors and won six times.
"The opportunities I had, I didn’t make the putts," Park said.