Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson were the only players under par after two rounds at Pinehurst No. 2, and that’s not all they had in common.
Both qualified for their first pro event when they were 12.
Wie earned a spot in an LPGA Tour event in Hawaii when she was in the seventh grade. A year later, she played in the final group at a major, and she was a regular contender in the majors when she was 16.
Thompson qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open when she was 12 and won her first LPGA Tour event when she was 16.
Wie is five years older and has a three-shot lead – the largest at 36 holes in the Women’s Open since 2003 – going into the weekend. They most recently were linked together two months ago in the first LPGA Tour major, when they were tied going into the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship and Thompson won by three.
Too early to be thinking rematch at Pinehurst No. 2?
“Definitely too early,” Thompson said with a laugh. “Thirty-six holes in a major, that’s a lot of golf to be played, especially at a U.S. Women’s Open.”
Both shot a 2-under 68 on Friday. Wie was at 4-under 136.
Here are five things to consider going into the weekend:
THE PUTTER: Wie first came to prominence because of her power, though her putting always held her back. Now, the short stick might be her best asset – no matter how strange it might look. She bends so far over the ball that her back is nearly parallel with the ground.
But it works.
She took only 29 putts on Friday, including two big ones. She rolled in a 15-foot par putt on the second hole after going over the green, and then after she thought her putt on No. 6 might go over the back of the green, she made par from 25 feet.
Wie has not had a three-putt in 36 holes on the Donald Ross greens of Pinehurst.
“I think everybody’s initial thought was that it’s different,” Thompson said. “But I tell you what, she’s putting a lot better and she seems a lot more confident over her putts, so it’s all about how you feel over a putt, what makes it comfortable. It doesn’t matter how you look, it matters how you get it in the hole. So good for her.”
THE POWER: Maybe it’s not a coincidence that the only players under par are two of the most powerful players in the game.
Karrie Webb predicted at the start of the week that the women would have more trouble out of the sandy areas (which replaced rough) filled with tiny bushes and weeds because they don’t have the strength as the men at last week’s U.S. Open.
Wie hit a gap wedge out of the scruff to set up birdie on the 18th.
Thompson was even more impressive. She lost track of how often she got into trouble off the tee, and managed to escape most times. On the eighth hole, she managed to advance it to the front of the green and took two putts for par. On the par-5 fifth hole, she ripped 5-iron from 195 yards out of the sandy lie to the edge of the green and took two putts from 60 feet for her third straight birdie.
It was reminiscent of Martin Kaymer’s shot on Saturday of the U.S. Open. He hit 7-iron from 202 yards to 5 feet for eagle, though the pin position was in the front.
THE KID: Lucy Li won’t be around for the weekend. The 11-year-old who became the youngest qualifier in U.S. Women’s Open history started with a double bogey for the second straight day, and wound up with another 78 to miss the cut by seven shots.
She still had a blast, and she has history on her side.
Thompson played her first Women’s Open at easier Pine Needles when she was 12 and shot 158 (76-82).
THE CHASERS: Stacy Lewis played bogey-free in the first round and led with a 67. She made six bogeys, along with three birdies, in a round of 73 on Friday and was at even-par 140, along with Amy Yang and 18-year-old amateur Minjee Lee of Australia.
Lewis, the No. 1 player in women’s golf, still saw the big picture.
“You’re going to have a bad round on this golf course. It’s just the way it is,” she said. “If that’s the worst I play this week, I think I’ll be all right.”
THE COMPARISONS: Michelle Wie said she caught herself wondering which comparisons she would make if she were simply a fan who watched the U.S. Open one week, and then the Women’s Open the following week at Pinehurst No. 2.
She couldn’t think of any.
Some raw numbers to consider:
– The 36-hole average score was 73.06 for the men, 75.41 for the women.
– There were 13 players under par after 36 holes for the U.S. Open, and two players for the Women’s Open.
– The women hit more fairways (73 percent to 71 percent). The men hit more greens (57 percent to 52 percent).
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.