Michelle Wie got hot early, parlaying a seven-under effort over her first nine holes into a seven-under 64 on Saturday for a three-shot lead in the LPGA Northwest Arkansas Championship.
Wie, vying for second victory in as many starts, notched the lowest nine-hole score on the LPGA Tour this year.
She started on the 10th tee at the Pinnacle Country Club and birdied five of her first seven holes. She drained an uphill putt from some 35 feet for an eagle at 18.
“It was a fun round today, I have to say,” Wie said.
She was three shots in front of Taiwan’s Yani Tseng (68), South Korean Na Yeon Choi (68) and Juli Inkster of the (66).
Inkster, the 50-year-old Hall of Famer, is trying to become the oldest player to win on the tour.
Inkster’s rookie year, 1983, was six years before Wie was born.
Taiwan’s Amy Hung shot a 72 for a one-over total of 143, while compatriot Candie Kung carded a 74 to be a shot further back, just making the cut on 144.
Wie tapped in for birdie on the second hole to get to eight-under for the day, but she couldn’t maintain the torrid pace.
Wie said the heat was a factor as her round wore on.
“I chugged a Powerade and a Vitamin Water,” Wie said.
Wie, who launched her career as a big-hitting prodigy who wanted to challenge the men, is now starting to come into her own on the LPGA tour.
The Hawaiian of Korean descent has made all but two cuts since the start of last year and earned her first career victory in November at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.
She won the Canadian Open two weeks ago.
Wie was five-under for the four par-fives, a six-stroke improvement from the first round.
Wie’s approach on the par-five 18th popped in and out of a greenside bunker before landing on the green to set up her eagle putt.
Tseng, playing alongside her, was able to stay within striking distance.
“She played awesome today,” the Taiwanese said of Wie. “I told my caddie, ‘Aw, she took all my birdies.’”
Several LPGA players have shot 29 this year for nine holes, but Wie’s was the first 28. South Korea’s Ji Young-oh shot seven-under on a par-37 nine at in Portland last month.
Additional reporting by Staff Writer
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