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|Lexi Thompson, 19, has won three LPGA titles and is ranked No. 9 in the world; Michelle Wie, 24, has yet to finish outside the top 16 this year, playing perhaps the best golf of her career.|
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- It's a great day to be the LPGA.
Women's golf will breathe deep and take it all in. Enjoy the moment. Relish the opportunity. It will be hard to get much better than this.
Sunday's final round at the Kraft Nabisco Championship arrives for women's golf like a bowl of homemade chicken soup, capable of magically curing any ills.
I think Lexi is a really entertaining golfer. I like to think I'm somewhat entertaining as well, so I think the both of us paired together is great. I think it's great for the tour, and it's going to be a lot of fun.” -- Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson, get your game on.
On the eve of Masters week, in the middle of college basketball's Final Four and knee-deep in the opening excitement of Major League Baseball's season, the LPGA can stand up and scream, "Made you look!"
Young, talented, popular and flashy, Wie and Thompson will tee off in Sunday's final round at Mission Hills Country Club tied for the lead at 10-under, each thirsting for her first career major championship.
What's not to like?
"I think Lexi is a really entertaining golfer," Wie said. "I like to think I'm somewhat entertaining as well, so I think the both of us paired together is great. I think it's great for the tour, and it's going to be a lot of fun."
To find two more recognizable names in American women's golf, you'd have to go to the World Golf Hall of Fame. Both players are on the LPGA's short list of stars, gifted and identifiable. Both are strong, aggressive and among the biggest hitters in the game. Their results are not always good -- but sometimes great -- and always entertaining.
"It's going to be a great pairing," Thompson said. "We bomb it off the tee and hit a lot of drivers usually, so it will be exciting to watch. I know Michelle pretty well, and I've gotten to play with her quite a few times, so it will be a great Sunday to watch.''
Thompson,19, is what Wie was supposed to be: an instant success. The South Florida teen won an LPGA event when she was 16 and has added two more since. She now ranks No. 9 in the world, an official rising star.
It's going to be a great pairing. We bomb it off the tee and hit a lot of drivers usually. ... I know Michelle pretty well, and I've gotten to play with her quite a few times, so it will be a great Sunday to watch.” -- Lexi Thompson
The star-crossed Wie, meanwhile, arrives as an almost sympathetic figure, burned by the spotlight she has held since an early teen and shy of expectations, but still in mainstream America the most recognized name in women's golf. Now 24, she arrived for this season with a maturity and brightness in her eyes heretofore never seen. And no one has ever suggested she does not have game. She has yet to finish outside the top 16 this year, playing perhaps her best golf since joining the LPGA.
"I definitely feel a lot more confident out there on the golf course," Wie said. "I just go out there and I think I just know what I need to do, and I think that came with experience of playing so many rounds in my life. I'm definitely a lot more confident."
The added bonus: Each woman -- 10-under and two shots clear of nearest challengers Se Ri Pak and Charley Hull -- will be clawing for her first career-defining major title. So far this week, they've been throwing down golf shots like double-dog dares on a school yard.
Wie didn't make a bogey Saturday on the way to shooting 68. She has had only two all week. Thompson, who shot a second-round, tournament-record 64 on Friday, has only three bogeys in three days, but one did come at No. 18 on Saturday, creating the tie.
"I'm nervous," Wie said. "I probably won't sleep that well tonight. It's just the chance. You want something so badly. I dreamed about this all my life, so I'm just trying to not think about it so much."
Offered Thompson: "Obviously, you're going to be a little nervous. I think if you're not nervous, you don't care. But it's a good nervous. This is what I've been waiting for and what I've worked my whole life for, so I'm really looking forward to tomorrow."
Likewise for the LPGA.
Kraft Nabisco is in its final season as title sponsor for the event that has become arguably the LPGA's favorite major. Dating to the Dina Shore, Mission Hills Country Club has hosted an LPGA event since 1973 and a major since '83. At present, a replacement for Kraft Nabisco has not been found.
"I know people will be really excited about tomorrow's pairing, but I'm not really going to worry about it," Thompson said, "I'm just going to go out and have fun. It's the final day of a major, and I'm tied for the lead, so I'm very excited that I've put myself in this position."