A win under her belt, Wie aims high for LPGA opener

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A win under her belt, Wie aims high for LPGA opener

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - Energized after finally winning her first LPGA Tour title four months ago, Michelle Wie has great expectations for this week’s Kraft Nabisco Championship where she has flourished in the past.

The 20-year-old Hawaiian has posted three top-10s in the opening women’s major of the season and is eager to build on her breakthrough victory at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.

“I’m really excited for this week,” Wie told reporters in the build-up to yesterday’s first round at Mission Hills Country Club. “I’ve been looking forward to it basically all year.

“I have a lot of good memories here and hopefully this year will be the year for me.

“One of the best feelings I’ve felt in my career was walking down 18 to that green by the huge grandstand with people cheering for you. That has to be one of my fondest memories.”

Wie tied for ninth at the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship, where she became the youngest player to make the cut at an LPGA event aged 13 years, five months and 17 days.

“I got to play in the last group with Annika [Sorenstam] and Patricia [Meunier-Lebouc] and that was really neat as well,” recalled the tall Hawaiian, who was the game’s most trumpeted teenager since fellow American Tiger Woods.

“This is just a very special tournament and it has a lot of tradition. It’s also a really fun tournament. I’m really ready, I’m really excited and I just can’t wait.”

Asked whether the challenging 6,673-yard Dinah Shore layout at Mission Hills suited her power game, Wie replied: “It’s hard for me to say. It all really depends that week how I play.

“When you’re playing well, every golf course seems like it’s perfect for you. It’s a fun golf course but it’s not an easy one. You have to keep it in the fairways and this week the rough is very healthy and very green.

“So I’ll try and keep it in play and make some putts.”

Wie has twice finished in the top five at Mission Hills, placing fourth in 2004 and tying for third in 2006. A lingering wrist injury prevented her from competing in 2007 and 2008 before she finished a disappointing joint 67th last year.

“Looking back on last year, I was still injured at this point. I wasn’t driving the ball well at all and I wasn’t hitting the ball well.

“I was still in the process of getting better. I think it really took me a lot longer than I expected.”

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