Luke Donald didn't have much of a gallery so he barely heard any applause even as he made birdies on half of his holes for a 7-under 63 and the early lead at the Sony Open on Thursday.
The crowds were with Michelle Wie. And there wasn't much cheering there, either.
"I heard no noise, really," Donald said. "I got one score update I wasn't sure if it was true 8 over after eight."
No, that wasn't true. She was 8 over after nine holes.
Playing in the Sony Open for the fourth straight year, Wie hit into the water twice, the bunker twice, clipped two palm trees and didn't hit a fairway until the 15th hole. Headed for her worst score ever, the 17-year-old kept battling and played the back nine in even par for a 78.
That's one stroke better than her opening round a year ago at Waialae.
But it still leaves her chances of making the cut about the same as the second round being postponed by snow.
"Even though I was playing bad, I knew I could always come back if I get the ball in the fairway," said Wie, who managed that just one time on a breezy day along the shores of Oahu. "At the end, I actually felt like I was playing golf."
Donald played superb and drove the ball well at the end of the round, setting up a wedge to 15 feet for birdie on No. 8 and a 2-iron into 25 feet for a two-putt birdie on the ninth.
He tied for seventh last week at the wind-blown Mercedes-Benz Championship, and found Thursday to be a breeze in more ways than one.
"I was playing reasonably solidly last week, and it was nice to come here and not get pounded by the wind quite as much," he said.
Jeff Sluman, who won the Sony Open in 1999, was among a half-dozen players at 66, while U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy was among those at 67.
Donald is at No. 10 in the world ranking, and his game has looked as though he belongs there. The Englishman has only two U.S. PGA Tour victories, including the Honda Classic last year, but his confidence is building and his game is tidier than ever.
"I'm getting better every year," Donald said. "It has not quite yet resulted in lots of wins, winning majors, that kind of stuff, but I feel like I'm getting a lot closer than I was a year or two ago. I've gotten to the stage where I'm expecting to be up there and contending, and winning each week I play."
For Wie, expectations are headed in the other direction.
Her swing no longer is long and fluid, rather mechanical than when she first played the Sony Open at age 14 and shot 68 in the second round to miss the cut by one shot. Her weakness then was her short game, which is now her strength.
It kept a bad round from being embarrassing on Thursday.
Wie duck-hooked her opening drive, fortunate it didn't go onto the practice range, but she saved par with a 10-foot putt. More fortune was on her side at No. 2, when another drive tugged to the left, hopped along the rocks framing the lake, then took one last bounce into the rough.
And on the next hole, she pulled another shot into the water and made an 8-foot putt to escape with bogey.
The worst tee shot came at No. 5, yanked some 40 yards left of the fairway into a creek next to the seventh green. That led to double bogey, and she picked up another double bogey on the sixth by twice clipping the palm trees.
And on the par-5 ninth, she sliced it so badly it went off the property and into a canal.
Q-school graduate Stephen Marino (68) and Gavin Coles of Australia (71) both suggested that her right wrist might have been hurting Wie more than she let on. Wie has had it wrapped tightly each day, and said she has been going through acupuncture.
"I don't know that her wrist was doing her any good," Coles said. "I think she's not letting people know that it's hurting. But she's got a nice short game. She managed very, very well. She has a nice head on her shoulders."
Wie said she hurt the wrist while hitting off a cart path at the Samsung World Championship in October, and it hasn't healed. She does not know if it's tendons or ligaments causing the pain, but she did not dwell on it.
"Every kind of injury hurts a little bit. It's always in the back of your mind," Wie said. "But it is what it is, and I'm not going to make any excuses. It hurt a little bit, but it is what it is."
She didn't make a birdie until a 6-iron out of the rough and through a gap in the palm trees to 15 feet on No. 12. Her other birdie came on the par-3 17th, where she hit 5-iron into 18 feet, reports AP.
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