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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. (AP) - Getting off to a quick start is nothing new for Charlie Wi. The hard part is figuring out how to finish.
Wi took the 18-hole lead for the third time this year _ and the eighth time in his PGA Tour career _ by closing with back-to-back birdies Thursday for an 8-under 64 on the easier Palm Course at Disney. That gave him a one-shot lead over Camilo Villegas and Tommy Gainey in the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.
Wi atop the leaderboard was a reminder that there’s more at stake in the final PGA Tour event of the year than players trying to keep their jobs. Each event is another opportunity for him to get his first win, and that’s would it take for him to have a chance of getting into the top 30 on the money list to earn his first trip to the Masters.
Gainey doesn’t have that opportunity. He won for the first time on tour three weeks ago at Sea Island when he closed with a 60, but he was so far down the money list that even a win at Disney wouldn’t be enough for him to get into the Masters.
The top 12 scores came from the Palm, which played about 1.7 shots easier than the Magnolia, where the final two rounds will be played. Henrik Stenson and Charles Howell III were among five players whose 68 was the best score at Magnolia.
Brian Harman, Scott Stallings and Russell Knox, the rookie from Scotland who is outside the top 150, were at 66. Kevin Chappell, at No. 123 on the money list, overcame an early bogey and was in the group at 67.
The 2009 tournament winner for the first of her two LPGA Tour victories, Wie birdied the first two holes at Guadalajara Country Club and opened the back nine with four straight birdies to match her lowest score of the year. She got into the 36-player field this year on a sponsor invitation after failing to qualify.
Stanford won the inaugural event in 2008.
Second-ranked Stacy Lewis, coming off her tour-leading fourth victory of the season Sunday in Japan, was a stroke back along with Inbee Park, Cristie Kerr, So Yeon Ryu and Karine Icher.
Lewis has a 58-point lead over Park with two events left in the player of the year points race, putting her in position to become the first American to win the award since Beth Daniel in 1994.
Ochoa opened with a 71. The Mexican star won 27 LPGA Tour titles before retiring at age 28 in 2010. She missed the event last year before the birth of son Pedro in December.
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