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Published: Friday, 8/15/2003

Wie bags driver; 4-wood fine

Michelle Wie will likely play today's second round of the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic with a different assortment of clubs in her bag. After yesterday, Wie is ready to leave the driver at home.

The long-hitting 13-year-old phenom, the only amateur in the field at the Farr, shot a 2-over 73 in yesterday's first round, and would have been under par if her driver had not betrayed her.

Wie, who started on No. 10, took a triple-bogey 7 on No. 15 after spraying her drive into the trees. Wie was at 5-over after her first six holes, but managed to turn things around and play her way back into the picture.

“This course gets a lot narrower when you use the driver, so after that trouble I didn't use the driver any more, I just hit my 4-wood off the tee,” Wie said.

The 4-wood served her well, keeping the ball in play, and it did not seem like Wie sacrificed a lot of distance. She hit that 4-wood 275 yards off the tee on No. 9, her final hole.

“On the second nine I hit a lot more fairways,” Wie said. “I made some putts, but they didn't all go in. I have been working on my putting a lot, and I feel really good about it.”

Wie, who was in danger of missing today's cut after her early troubles, said she was not concerned about what kind of score she would need to post today in order to stay in Toledo through the weekend.

“I'm not worried a bit,” Wie said. “I think I'm playing pretty well. I have to be patient, and just be in the present out there. I can't think ahead.”

BIG BROTHER: Laura Diaz has her eyes on the prize in the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic, but her attention is actually split between two golf tournaments.

Her brother, Ron Philo Jr., is playing in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.

“I hear he had a rough day,” Diaz said after firing a 6-under-par 65 to take a one-shot lead in the Farr at Highland Meadows. “I got an update before I started. My husband is there and he had to duck into a port-a-john to call me on his cell phone.”

Philo, who co-owns with his father a golf school at Amelia Island in Florida and also works as a PGA professional in Stowe, Vt., qualified for the PGA by finishing third in the national club pro championship.

Philo carded an 82 yesterday in the first round at Oak Hill.

CUTTING EDGE: Tonya Gill, who has finished just three of 13 LPGA events this season, opened the Farr Classic with a 2-under 69.

She had an eighth-place finish in the Shoprite LPGA Classic, but also has missed nine cuts and been disqualified once.

“It has been a weird year because I've missed a lot of cuts by a shot or two,” Gill said. “I'm trying to get something going at the end of the year to finish strong.”

Her stretch drive includes a change in caddies. J.C. Cass was on Gill's bag yesterday for the first time during a round that included four birdies.

“We're going to go the rest of the year,” Cass said.

FORCED VACATION: Fiona Pike took a two-week hiatus from tournament play when she failed to qualify for either the Evian Masters in Paris or the Women's British Open.

It may have been a blessing in disguise.

“I was able to work with my swing coach in Texas and I've been much more consistent with my ball-striking,” she said after a first-round 68 that left her three shots out of the lead. “I made some quality hits today. When you make quality hits and are more consistent with the yardages, it makes firing at the pins a little easier.”

Pike's no-bogey round was a shot better than her opening-round score at Highland Meadows a year ago which had her within two shots of the lead. She followed that 69 with rounds of 70-70-72 that produced a tie for 34th place.

Her career-low round of 67 was recorded in the first round of the 2000 Farr Classic.

“It's just one of my favorite courses on tour,” Pike said. “I love coming here.”

INSTANT REPLAY: Marisa Baena didn't get off to the best of starts, three-putting the first green. She missed a three-foot par putt and was saddled with a bogey.

“That's a very tough way to start, especially when I haven't been playing well,” she said. “But then I hit a really good shot at No. 2 and had a three-footer that was almost identical to the one I'd just missed. I made that one and all of a sudden I wasn't as discouraged.”

It was the first of five birdies on her card en route to a 3-under 68.

Another good round today should allow Baena, a native of Colombia who now resides in Florida, to snap a streak of four straight missed cuts.

KOCH SOLID: After having a child in April, Carin Koch took some time off and did not join the LPGA Tour until early July, in time to compete in the U.S. Women's Open.

She failed to make the cut that first week back, but has won a modest $60,178 since, and is off to a good start with a 2-under 69 in yesterday's opening round of the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic.

“I guess I'd say today was not bad - I played pretty solid,” the 32-year-old native of Sweden said. “I could have done better - but that seems to always be the case.”

Koch, whose best finish this season has been a tie for 11th in the Evian Masters, said that her effectiveness on the greens has been slow to return following her leave from golf for the birth of her second son, Simzon.

HARD AND FAST: Players were a bit surprised by the firmness of the greens considering nearly two inches of rain fell on Highland Meadows Monday night as part of a lightning and thunderstorm.

“I know how bad [the storm] was,” said A.J. Eathorne, who fired a 70 yesterday. “It was scary. I was hiding in my hotel room.

“It just shows that the superintendent and his crew had the course ready to absorb something like that and then did a quick cleanup.”

Jung Yeon Lee, who carded a 2-under 69, said she was “pretty surprised by the greens. We played in Columbus last week and it was really, really soft. And then there was all that rain here [Monday] night. It's amazing how nice and firm [the greens] were today. They are in great condition.”

TOUGH NO. 12: The 395-yard 12th hole, a par 4, was toughest on the field yesterday, averaging 4.319 strokes. The players managed just nine birdies on the hole as opposed to 51 above-par scores. On the flip side, the par-3 second hole surrendered 47 birdies and played to an average of 2.840 strokes.

ROUGH SPORT: Two players withdrew following yesterday's first round because of injuries. An LPGA spokesman said Georgina Simpson suffered a muscle pull on the 17th hole during a round of 78, and that Leigh Ann Mills WD'd because of a neck injury after shooting 83.

- DAVE HACKENBERG, MATT MARKEY



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