GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Michelle Wie first played the ShopRite LPGA Classic as a 13 year old in 2003.
Fans and media thought she would be the face of women's golf for years to come.
"You know," Wie said Friday, "I think nothing really goes exactly the way you plan."
Wie, 23, played some of her best golf of 2013 at the first round of the Classic on Friday.
She shot 3–under-par 68 on the Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club. Wie enters today's second round in fourth place, two shots back of leaders Amanda Blumenherst and Moriya Jutanugarn, who both opened with 5-under-par 66s. Wie's score tied her season low.
"I really just stayed patient today and took it one shot at a time," Wie said. "I didn't get ahead of myself, and I really have to (continue to) do that the next two days."
Wie has struggled much of this season.
She missed the cut in her last two events and in five of the 10 tournaments she's played this year. Her best finish is a tie for 28th at the LPGA Lotte Championship in her native Hawaii last month.
Wie has failed to meet the lofty expectations she created as a teen phenom. She has won just two LPGA events, with her last having come at the CN Canadian Women's Open on Aug. 29, 2010.
The Classic helped develop Wie's teen phenom reputation. She played the 2003 Classic as a 13-year-old amateur and finished tied for 52nd.
That 2003 Classic created a stir in the golf world. Wie arrived at the tournament shortly after winning the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links title. She was the youngest player to ever win that title.
Wie wowed fans with her long drives. There was speculation back then that she would choose to play part-time on the men's tour. Media from New York and Philadelphia descended on Seaview to interview and follow Wie. The 2003 Classic also featured Annika Sorenstam a few weeks after she played a men's PGA event - the Bank of America Colonial in Texas.
"I can't believe it's 10 years already," Wie said. "I feel so lucky of all the experiences I've had the last 10 years, playing this event. You just look up to these players when you're growing up and you're actually warming up next to them on the driving range. It's a pretty cool feeling to have."
Wie said Friday she's been working hard and feels as if she's close to playing well.
"I just have to be patient and let it happen," she said, "and not force it or anything."
Twice on Friday her round was on the verge of slipping away. She saved par with up-and-downs at the first and second holes. Wie bogeyed the 11th and 12th holes to move to 1-under-par. But she then birdied Nos. 16 and 17.
The biggest reason for Wie's lack of success has been trouble on the greens. She began the Classic ranked 49th on the tour with an average of 29.76 putts per round. Wie took 30 putts Friday.
Wie's putting style looks uncomfortable at best. The 6-foot-1 Wie stands at a 90-degree angle with her back parallel to the ground. Wie said she adapted that style in the middle of a round last year.
"I was thinking maybe I'm putting bad because I'm too tall and I just want to be a little bit shorter," Wie said. "It felt good and I kept going, and it is what it is now."
The question now is, can Wie sustain her Friday success?
"The big thing for me is not to really look too far ahead," Wie said. "I think (today) on the No.1 tee, all I'm going to think about is the first shot and for every shot (after that) just really be in the moment."
One thing is for certain -Wie will be one of today's main attractions. She's one of the most scrutinized players on tour and a polarizing figure. Many in the golf community have criticized the way she started her career - choosing to play in professional events as opposed to the more traditional junior golf tournaments.
Her critics said she should have sacrificed the publicity from playing in professional tournaments in exchange for playing against her peers and learning how to win in junior tournaments.
"I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion," Wie said. "I try not to listen to it as much as I can, but it's just - you can't please everyone. I'm not going to go around ... living my life trying to please everyone because in the end it doesn't really matter."
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