- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 11, 2006

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. — So steamed after butchering an 18-inch par putt, Michelle Wie walked to the 18th tee last night at Bulle Rock Golf Course “wanting to bite somebody’s head off.” The miss was her third from within three feet and she fully realized that giveaway strokes are doubly detrimental in a major championship.

“I was super [ticked] off,” she said. “But I kind of channeled that frustration into a good hole on 18 because I felt like that’s what I needed.”

For the third consecutive day, Wie birdied No. 18 at the LPGA Championship, using a rare accurate tee shot and a 12-foot putt to pull herself within one stroke of co-leaders Pat Hurst and Ai Miyazato.

Hurst and Miyazato shot 72 and 69, respectively, and stand at 7 under. Wie is joined at 6 under by Shi Hyun Ahn and Mi Hyun Kim, who all shot 71s.

The third round started with winds gusting up to 30 mph and 24 players within three shots of Hurst and ended at sunset with seven players within three strokes of the co-leaders.

And it’s a young leader board — with five of them younger than 25 and only Hurst is older than 30 (37).

“They’re making feel so old and I’m only 28,” Se Ri Pak said. “But they can sure play.”

Pak, Lorena Ochoa and Jee Young Lee are two shots back. Karrie Webb is one of four players at 4 under.

Annika Sorenstam’s bid to win four straight LPGA Championships likely ended with a 3-over 75, leaving her six shots back. Sorenstam’s round was essentially ruined by a two-stroke penalty on the second hole when she removed part of a divot near her ball in the fairway.

“It’s never too late, but things have to change,” she said.

Wie didn’t encounter a penalty, but she ran into just about everything else. Her first par didn’t come until the sixth hole. She had three three-putt holes, tied for second most of the day. She hit only seven of 14 fairways.

“Very up and down,” Wie said. “I didn’t really feel like I had any momentum going [early].”

But Wie — the second-most recognizable female golfer in the world despite her age (16) and number of professional wins (zero) — is in great position. Wie finished second to Sorenstam at the LPGA last year.

“This year, I feel a lot more confident with my game and I feel like this golf course owes me a good round,” she said. “It’s not going to be the first time I’m in contention going into the final round, so I’m going to use all that experience and see what happens.”

Although it came in the Far East, Miyazato has winning experience — although she’s 20, she has 12 international wins. She started the day tied for eighth but sprinted up the leader board, thanks to a front-nine 33. She bogeyed the 14th hole to fall a shot back of Hurst, but drained a six-foot birdie putt on 17 to regain a share of the lead.

Miyazato held a one-shot lead last week in New Jersey but shot 74 and finished tied for 13th. She was followed yesterday by more than 30 Japanese media members and has found LPGA Tour life difficult — only two top 10s in 13 tournaments.

But a steady tee-to-green game (13 of 14 fairways hit) and consistent flat stick (no three-putts yesterday) give Miyazato confidence.

“I stayed in a good flow all day,” she said. “It’s going to be exciting, but I have to keep all my concentration on my own game. I’ll definitely be nervous.”

Hurst, who entered the round with a one shot lead over Christina Kim and Dorothy Delasin, had only one hiccup — and it was costly. Birdies on Nos. 7 and 8 moved her to 9-under, but a double bogey on the ninth hole put a damper on the round.

“A little mishap on the green,” she said of the four-putt.

Hurst recorded nine consecutive pars to end her round, but missed plenty of birdie opportunities. Hurst remained in the lead despite playing 26 holes yesterday. A five-hour rain delay Friday forced 70 players to complete their second round yesterday.

“Overall, I’m hitting it pretty well and looking forward to [today],” she said. “I need to hit the ball the same way and make some putts.”

Ochoa headlines the group of six players that are at 5 under. She started with two birdies, but gave those shots back with bogeys on 5 and 6. Ochoa rebounded with two birdies, but bogeyed the last hole with a three-jack from 25 feet.

Ochoa has two wins and five second-place finishes this year and is the tour’s best player still without a major.

“I have to try and be patient,” she said. “I don’t think I’m going to be looking to the scoreboard that much. I’ll just try and play my own game and then maybe look at 16 and hopefully it will give me good news.”

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