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  • Wie sets standard in U.S. Women's Open

  • PINEHURST, N.C. — Michelle Wie is becoming a regular contender in major championships, only now as an adult.
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  • PINEHURST, N.C. — Michelle Wie is becoming a regular contender in major championships, only now as an adult.
    She captivated women's golf as a teenager, contending in three straight LPGA Tour majors when she was 16. That was when she still was trying to compete against the men, when she didn't always look as if she was having fun and before injuries and criticism were a big part of her growing pains.
    On another tough day at Pinehurst No. 2, the 24-year-old from Hawaii held it together Friday with two key par putts and finished with back-to-back birdies for a 2-under 68, giving her a three-shot lead going into the weekend at the U.S. Women's Open.
    "I think you look at the way Michelle has played the last six months and you look at her differently," said Stacy Lewis, the No. 1 player in women's golf who was four shots out of the lead. "I think she's become one of the best ball-strikers on tour. She hits it really consistent. She knows where the ball's going. And she's figuring out how to win. That's the big thing."
    But there's a familiar name, and another teen prodigy, who joined Wie as the only players still under par.
    Lexi Thompson, who soundly beat Wie in the final round to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship for her first major title, powered her way out of the sand and weeds, running off three straight birdies to match Wie's 68, the low score Friday.
    For all the interest in the men and women playing Pinehurst No. 2 in successive weeks, Wie and Thompson made the Women's Open more closely resemble the first LPGA major. Is it too early to start thinking rematch?
    "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."
    For now, Wie had control. Her three-shot lead is the largest through 36 holes in the Women's Open in 11 years.
    She twice thought her shots were going off the turtleback greens, and twice she relied on her table-top putting stance to make long par saves. She finished with a 6-iron that set up a 12-foot birdie putt, and a 15-foot birdie on the par-5 ninth to reach 4-under 136.
    "End of the day yesterday, I was thinking if I just did this again, that would be nice," Wie said. "Finishing with two birdies is always great. It's a grind out there. It's not easy. Really grateful for the par putts that I made and some of the birdie putts that I made. I can't complain. I'll take it."
    Lewis, who opened with a bogey-free 67, picked up a bogey on her first hole in a wild round of six bogeys, three birdies and a tough 73. Even so, the two-time major champion managed to see the big picture.
    "I hung around, and that's what you've got to do at this tournament," said Lewis, at even-par with Amy Yang (69) and Minjee Lee, the 18-year-old amateur from Australia who played bogey-free on the back nine to salvage a 71.
    Lucy Li, the precocious 11-year-old and youngest qualifier in the history of the U.S. Women's Open, isn't leaving town until Monday. She just won't be playing any more golf. The sixth-grader from the Bay Area started with a double bogey for the second straight day and shot another 78 to miss the cut by seven shots.
    The cut was 9-over 149.
    Na Yeon Choi had a 70 and was at 1-over 141, followed by Paula Creamer (72) at 2-over 142. The group at 143 included Karrie Webb (73) and So Yeon Ryu (74).
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