IRVING – The hottest player on the LPGA Tour continued her front-running ways during Thursday’s opening round at the North Texas LPGA Shootout.
Michelle Wie, the tour’s leading money winner this season, posted her 15th consecutive round of par or better with a 4-under-par 67 to rank among the leaders at Las Colinas Country Club.
Wie is one of four golfers tied for the lead after Thursday’s morning wave of competitors, joining Christina Kim, Cydney Clanton and Caroline Masson at 4-under while the afternoon starters completed their rounds. Wie began with two birdies in her first three holes, mixed in a three-putt, bagged an eagle at No. 10 and capped her round with a 15-foot birdie putt at No. 18.
“I started off hot, and then I had a three-putt,” said Wie, who has one victory and five top-10 finishes among her first eight events this season. “I had a couple of wedge opportunities were I didn’t make birdie. But a 67, overall, I’ll take it. I think any under-par round on this golf course is great. I’m real excited for the next three days. Hopefully, I can do more of those.”
Wie, joined by defending champ InbeePark and Fort Worth resident Angela Stanford, was the only member of the morning featured group to break par. The other two posted even-par 71, a score matched by Stacy Lewis, the No. 3 player in the women’s world golf rankings.
But birdies were plentiful for other golfers, with Amelia Lewis, P.K. Kongkraphan and Xi Yu Lin all posting rounds of 68, one stroke off the lead. Kim, who missed the cut at last week’s Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic while battling an illness, collected three birdies in her first five holes while charging to a share of the lead on the strength of some crisp ball-striking.
“I don’t think I missed a green (in regulation),” Kim said. “I missed a bunch of putts. But I struck the ball really well.”
The secret behind her turnaround from last week’s struggles?
“I watched a lot of ‘Seinfeld,’” Kim said. “I was a bit under the weather, so I really just focused on getting healthier.”
Her opening score suggests Kim is back to full health. For Wie, 24, Thursday’s hot start continues a season-long trend. She has not finished lower than a tie for 16th in any of her first eight tournaments and has collected a tour-best $651,812 this season.
Lewis’ unique round
Stacy Lewis, the No. 3 player in the world rankings, posted an even-par 71 despite a trio of three-putts and a one-stroke penalty for inadvertently kicking her ball at No. 10.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like that,” said Lewis, who still took par at the par-5 hole despite the penalty. “It’s just one of those weird things you’re going to do occasionally.”
--Fort Worth resident Angela Stanford, a former TCU standout, buried a 30-foot birdie putt on her final hole to finish at even-par 71.
--Both college qualifiers struggled in Thursday’s opening round, with Sammi Stevens (76) and Brittany Fan (78) in danger of missing Friday’s 36-hole cut.
_ Jimmy Burch