(Reuters) – Michelle Wie West, in only her second tournament after a nearly two-year absence, showed she can still compete with the game’s best as she made an encouraging start to the first major of the LPGA season on Thursday in Rancho Mirage, California.
Wie West, who was out of action while on maternity leave and recovering from a wrist injury, fired a two-under-par 70 at the ANA Inspiration to sit four shots off the early first-round lead at Mission Hills Country Club.
“I am just happy to see my name on the first page of the leaderboard,” said Wie West. “That’s really special to me. Been a long time since I’ve seen that.”
For Wie West, who has been playing Mission Hills since 2003 when she was a 13-year-old amateur, it was a remarkable turnaround considering she missed the cut last week in the first event of her comeback.
Wie West made a bogey on her first hole, but got back to even par when she nearly aced the par-three 14th. She made three consecutive birdies after the turn but dropped a shot at the par-four sixth.
“Especially after last week, it was really good to see those putts roll in,” said Wie West, who counts the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open among her five LPGA Tour wins.
“Put myself in some interesting spots today, but really proud of how I grinded it out out there.”
Wie West still has plenty of work ahead if she is to secure an improbable victory this week and make the winner’s traditional leap into Poppie’s Pond.
But it was a remarkable first step that even Wie West likely did not think was possible 21 months ago when she broke down and walked away from reporters while discussing her playing future in what was the final event before her break.
“It was fun today making putts out here. I have a lot of great memories, my first one being 18 years ago,” said Wie West.
“This place is really special to me and I’m just glad to be here.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)