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Michelle Wie West returns to the desert, climbs leaderboard at ANA Inspiration

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – A e book might be written on Michelle Wie West’s golf profession simply at the ANA Inspiration, the place she first performed as a 13-year-old in 2003. In Thursday’s opening spherical, Wie West added a brand new chapter to that e book.

In her first begin in the LPGA main championship since 2019 and in simply her third spherical of the 2021 season, Wie West rolled in some key putts for surprising birdies on the method to a 2-under 70 on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club.

While that leaves Wie West three pictures off the early lead of Shanshan Feng halfway by the first spherical, it was Wie West and her reminiscences at the course that had been the speak of the ANA inspiration.

ANA Inspiration: Leaderboard

“I always think the tradition here, just knowing the legends that have jumped into Poppie’s Pond,” Wie West mentioned after her spherical. “Honestly, it’s the volunteers that make it special to me. I recognize a lot of faces over the years. Just being able to see them year after year and just the vibe here is great.”

Wie West’s profession at the ANA Inspiration contains taking part in in the closing threesome on Sunday in her debut at 13, threatening to win the title when she was 14, lacking a playoff by one shot when she was 16 and falling simply brief in a final-round duel with Lexi Thompson in 2014. Somehow, Wie West has by no means gained the event to make the champion’s leap into Poppie’s Pond.

She is now again in the occasion as a 31-year-old married girl with a baby, and it’s, in her phrases, bizarre.

“You know, looking back, I was a kid,” Wie West mentioned of her debut in the occasion 18 years in the past. “I still feel like a kid. Having a baby definitely puts a different perspective on everything. I’m more excited to go home and see her than I was about my round, to be honest.”

A sizzling putter pays off

Playing the again 9 first, Wie West made the flip at even par. But she rolled in a 40-foot birdie putt on the first gap, birdied the brief par-5 second gap and rolled in one other lengthy birdie putt on the robust par-4 third gap. She shared the lead at 3-under at one level, however a bogey on the sixth gap dropped her down the chief board.

Wie West mentioned as she deliberate her return to the LPGA after getting married and having her first daughter that the ANA Inspiration was the goal for her return. She performed in the Kia Classic final week in Carlsbad, lacking the lower with rounds of 81 and 74.

”Oh, one hundred pc one thing that I actually need to play,” Wie West mentioned. “This place is, as you all know, really a special place to me, and to be back here, especially with a baby here as well, it’s a really special place. That was definitely a goal that I had.”

The early first-round chief additionally has an attention-grabbing story. Feng, from China, didn’t play at all in 2020, sitting at dwelling throughout the pandemic, attempting to determine what to have for her subsequent meal 3 times a day, she laughed.

But there was no proof of rust on Feng’s recreation on Thursday, with 5 birdies and no bogeys.

Yuka Saso of Japan managed a 3-under 69 in her first journey to the Dinah Shore Tournament Course and was alone in the lead for a lot of the day earlier than falling again with a late bogey. Other early finishers included Lexi Thompson at 70, Nelly Korda at 71 and Brooke Henderson at 75. Korda and Henderson had been in a three-way playoff with eventual winner Mirim Lee when the 2020 event was performed 5 months delayed final September.

Larry Bohannan is The Desert Sun golf author. He will be reached at (760) 778-4633 or [email protected] Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @Larry_Bohannan. Support native journalism: Subscribe to the Desert Sun.

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