SOUTHPORT, England (AP) — Michelle Wie hit a low bullet off the tee with a hybrid club on the par-5 sixth hole at Royal Birkdale, getting past the bunker at the dogleg and leaving an open shot at the green Thursday in the Women’s British Open.
She laid up with a 6-iron, leaving her an awkward distance from about 60 yards to a front pin. The U.S. Women’s Open champion had to work to make par.
On the par-5 17th hole, she hit another hybrid stinger down the fairway, followed by another 6-iron to the same, difficult distance. She tried a pitch that would run up onto the green, only this stopped short of the putting surface, and she had to get up-and-down for par.
Wie wound up with a 75 and was seven shots out of the lead. One problem was not taking advantage of the par 5s, which she is trying to figure out because of the bunkers.
The sixth hole has bunkers guarding each side of the elevated green. The 17th hole has two bunkers that are slightly staggered in distance.
“I left myself short of those bunkers,” Wie said. “I didn’t want to mess with those bunkers. A couple of them didn’t turn out the way I wanted. The par 5s, I just kind of played it a little bit safe.”
Wie felt she had just as good a chance at birdie by laying up within 50 yards than if she were to miss the green and try to get up-and-down, especially from the pot bunker. But to lay up with a 6-iron?
“I just can’t carry the bunker,” she said, “so it would be landing it and be praying.”
She played a good wedge shot for spin, except the ball didn’t check and rolled out some 35 feet past the pin, leaving her a difficult two-putt for par.
Wie felt the same way about the 17th. Instead of going for a straight shot between the bunkers, she worried that an extra club or two would sent her shot over the green. Sandra Gal went for the green from about 30 yards closer (she hit a longer club off the tee) and it wound up well over the back.
“I just can’t carry that 30-yard bunker short of the green and stop it,” she said. “I saw what Sandra’s ball did.”
Morgan Pressel hit driver off the sixth tee, and then a hybrid 5-iron into a bunker. She blasted out to 7 feet and made birdie.
The 18th is the only time Wie hit driver. That left her a 7-iron to the green. She went long, but chipped beautifully to tap-in range for her only birdie on a par 5.
Ayako Uehara of Japan felt confident with her putter and played in the best weather Royal Birkdale has to offer. It was the right combination to take the lead Thursday with a four-under 68.