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Wie storms into Hawaii contention

MICHELLE Wie put herself into contention for her first LPGA Tour victory, shooting a two-under 70 on Friday to claim a share of the lead entering the final round of the season-opening SBS Open at Kahuku, Hawaii.

Making her debut as an LPGA card-carrying member, Wie used a three-birdie run to surge to the top of the leaderboard with a two-round total of eight-under 136, level with fellow American Angela Stanford (71).

"It feels good," Wie said of being in contention again. She will be in the final group for the first time since the 2006 Evian Ladies Masters, where she tied for second and picked up the biggest paycheck of her career. Wie said she couldn't remember the last time she led going into the final day. It was at the 2006 US Women's Open where she eventually finished equal third, two strokes out of the playoff.

She hasn't hoisted a trophy since claiming the USGA Women's Amateur Public Links Championships at age 13 to become the youngest USGA champion in history.

"I just don't want to get that ingrained in my head just yet," she said. "I feel like everyone has been asking me that, and there's still a day left. I just want to do the same thing and play as hard as I can."

The 19-year-old is seeking her first title in her 49th tour start. She's also looking to put her past struggles behind.

"I'm starting with a clean slate. I earned my way here. I'm a rookie. And I've been through a lot, so I'm just going to start fresh, start new and just have a great year."

Stanford, the first-round leader, began the day at seven-under and quickly caught Wie for the lead by birdieing the par-five third hole before running off 15 straight pars for her second bogey-free round.

Stanford is coming off a career-best season where she won two events, broke US$1 million for the first time.

Brazilian-born Angela Park had the best round of the day with a 68 and was on stroke off the leaders at seven-under, two shots ahead of Japan's Momoko Ueda (71).

Rookies Stacy Lewis (70) and 18-year-old Vicky Hurst (71) were tied for fifth at three-under, along with 2008 rookie of the year and second-ranked Tseng Yani (75) and Brittany Lang (70).

In Melbourne, Australia, South Korea's Lee Chang-hee held a one-stroke lead after three rounds of the Womens' Australian Open yesterday, pursued by two Americans and a group that included four-time champ Karrie Webb.

Lee shot a two-over 75 yesterday, her second-round lead shrinking by one stroke. Her five-under total of 214 was one better than the American pair of Alison Walshe (69) and Beth Allen (73).

Webb, who is attempting to win a third straight Open and her fifth overall, shot 75 and is in a four-way tie for fourth with Choi He-young of South Korea (71), Australian Emma Bennett (73) and Tania Elosegui of Spain (75), two strokes off the lead.


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