Wie hits worst round of year as challenge gets lost in sand

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The Independent Online

Michelle Wie embarked on her second year as a professional by matching her worst score of 2006, when she hit a 74 that included a quadruple-bogey eight in the first round of the Samsung World Championship here.

While Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa were tied for the lead at 67, Wie, who turned 17 on Wednesday, was struggling - nowhere more so than at the par-four 14th. Her ball was nestled against a rock the size of a baseball, with waist-high bushes all around. She took a free drop into the desert sand behind a small tree. That did not work. She tried again, advancing the ball into a thicket that left her no choice but to take a penalty drop.

If that was not enough, she had to hit her next shot off a cement cart path, just to get back to the fairway. "It was a really, really bad situation to be in," she said. "There was no bail-out."

Ochoa has four victories and five runner-up finishes this year, and she could all but secure the LPGA Tour player of the year title with victory here. Sorenstam is going for a record sixth victory in this tournament, and the 70th of her career. Wie is still trying to win her first title on the Tour, but despite her first-round tribulations she remains optimistic.

"My game is feeling really good," she said. "It's really close right now." And she did show a large measure of resilience. After a sloppy double-bogey on the 11th, she bounced back with an eagle on the par-five 12th by making a 60-foot putt from off the back of the green.

But her round came off the rails at the 14th. In hindsight, she would have been better off going back to the tee and hitting her third shot. At the time, she thought she could escape with her free drop into the desert sand. She did not realise that the wind was keeping branches out of her way; but the wind then died, and the branches were right back in front of her.

"I had to wait for the tree to blow back," she said. "[Then I thought] 'All right, the tree is out of my way, hit it!'"In her haste, she missed it all together.

Trailing Sorenstam and Ochoa by a shot were Lee Seon-Hwa, of South Korea, and the Swede Sophie Gustafson.

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