Canadian Alena Sharp, playing her 10th year on the LPGA Tour, zoomed from relative obscurity to the top of the leaderboard Friday at the Wal-Mart Northwest Arkansas Classic, setting the pace for the tourney when she carded 65 and took the overnight lead at eight strokes under par. One stroke back, Mexico’s Alejandra Llaneza and Michelle Wie, the Tour’s newest celebrity and US Women’s Open champion, are sharing the second slot on the board going into Saturday’s second round in the 54-hole event. Just below LLaneza and Wie, there a gang of ten crowded into the fourth spot on the board at -4, going into Saturday, all taking plans to get to the top of the board with them to the tee box.
Where’s The Top Gun?
Stacy Lewis, University of Arkansas alum and world No. 1, shot a 1-under 70 and is in a tie for 43rd and five shots off the lead. Lewis thoroughly enjoyed her homecoming, tossing golf caps into the crowd, grinning, and urging the gallery gathered gathered on 17 to elevate the volume of their collective pig calls, the traditional battle cry for UofA athletic competitions.
Lewis also took some time to meet with a young fan from Springdale, Arkansas (where the friend chicken dipped in a secret honey batter surpasses all other fried chicken in the entire world) who has a big challenge in front of her. Brenna Dobson met with Lewis for nearly 10 minutes to talk about her upcoming scoliosis surgery in either August or November.
The 12-year old was able to put some questions to Lewis, who had scoliosis surgery when she was 18 years old. Her questions ranged from specifics about the surgery, if she will still be able to do yoga and if it hurts to sit during a car ride. Lewis explained in detail what to expect and even showed her how flexible she is still.
Wie Needs Some Sleep
Michelle Wie, who arrived in Arkansas on Wednesday afternoon after a two-day media tour in New York City following her first major championship win at the US Women’s Open, said she started running out of gas on the back nine but was glad to be back playing again.
I think it’s definitely struck me on the back nine a little bit tired, but I just was really excited to get out here and start playing again. New York was fun, but it’s just fun to get back to playing golf.
-Michelle Wie on getting back to competition after a two-day media tour in New York City
Wie has missed the cut at this event the past three years but had a runner-up finish in 2010. She had a bogey-free round with five birdies and said she was grateful for the weather holding up yesterday to allow her to get in a full 18 holes in before Friday.
Rogers received nearly two inches of rain just before the tournament began and conditions are playing soft, quite a contrast to playing conditions last week in North Carolina at Pinehurst No. 2. And there’s more rain and wind coming today in the late afternoon. Players with later tee times are expecting delays.
Katie Burnett, Jodi Ewart Shadoff and PK Kongkraphan lead off the Saturday round at 7:30am local time, with the final groups teeing off at 2:31pm local time. Saturday Golf Channel Coverage begins at 5pm ET and my colleagues and I at ProGolfNow will provide a wrap-up of Saturday and commentary on Sunday’s final round.