RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson know exactly what’s at stake Sunday at Mission Hills — for themselves and the attention-starved LPGA Tour.
“I think it’s great for the tour and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Wie, from Honolulu, said Saturday after tying Thompson for the third-round lead in the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
“I think Lexi is a really entertaining golfer. I like to think I’m somewhat entertaining as well. So, I think the both of us paired together is great.”
They’re each trying to win their first major title, a victory that would be a big boost to the tour that felt slighted and upstaged this week when Golf Digest put model Paulina Gretzky on its cover after long ignoring the top female players.
“I know people will be really excited about tomorrow’s pairing, but I’m not really going to worry about it,” Thompson said. “I’m just going to go out and have fun.”
The 24-year-old Wie shot a bogey-free 4-under 68 to match the 19-year-old Thompson at 10-under 206.
The popular Americans were teammates last year in the Solheim Cup.
“I really like Lexi,” Wie said. “I think she’s a really good girl.”
The two 6-footers are power players, though Wie has sacrificed some distance for control and has been hitting low-flying 3-wood stingers off a lot of tees.
“That’s kind of always been in my bag,” Wie said. “Kind of reintroduced it back into my game the last couple of months. It’s just something that I’ve always felt comfortable doing and I’ve played well on this golf course.”
Thompson, already a three-time winner on the tour, settled for a 69 after missing a 3-foot par putt on the par-5 18th. She also missed two short birdie putts on the front nine.
“I’m getting looks at birdies and just waiting for a few more to drop,” Thompson said.
Charley Hull, the Englishwoman who turned 18 last month, was two strokes back along with five-time major champion Se Ri Pak. Hull birdied the 18th for a 66, the best round of the day. Pak shot 71.
Both leaders said they were nervous.
“I probably won’t sleep that well,” Wie said. “It’s just the chance. You want something so badly. I dreamed about this all my life, so I’m just trying to not think about it so much. I’m just trying to think it’s a normal Sunday. … But I think that’s a good thing. It’s a sign that I’m really excited and I really want this.”
“But it’s a good nervous,” Thompson said. “This is what I’ve been waiting for and what I’ve worked my whole life for.”
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. She also was sixth in 2011.
“I just go out there and I think I just really know what I need to do,” Wie said. “I think that came with experience of playing so many rounds in my life.”
Wie has two 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. On Saturday, she birdied four of the first 11 holes and parred the last seven, leaving an 8-foot birdie putt short on 18.
“I’m really happy that with my placement,” Wie said.
Kuchar takes 4-shot lead at Houston Open
HUMBLE, Texas — Matt Kuchar overcame windy conditions to match the low round of the day and take a four-shot lead after three rounds of the Houston Open.
The six-time PGA Tour winner had three straight birdies on the back nine at the Golf Club of Houston on Saturday to vault past second-round leader Sergio Garcia with a 4-under par 68 — leaving him at 15 under overall heading into the final round.
Kuchar’s last win came at the Memorial last year. He enters Sunday four shots ahead Cameron Tringale and Garcia.
Tringale shot a 3-under 69 in the third round, while Garcia struggled his way to a 1-over 73.
Phil Mickelson shot an even-par 72 and is 6 under.
By wire sources