Nelly Korda Ties a Record, and Michelle Wie West Breaks Through

ATLANTA — Michelle Wie West has repeatedly expressed gratitude about returning to the L.P.G.A. Tour in 2021 after chronic wrist injuries sidelined her for the better part of two years. But that doesn’t mean she is satisfied simply teeing it up.

Wie West, 31, does not regard this season as one long Brené Brown workshop on courage.

When someone said to Wie West this week that it must be great to play unburdened by the expectations that she shouldered as a teenage phenom, her inner warrior heard someone essentially discounting her ability to compete for more titles.

“I still carry the same expectations for myself,” said Wie West, whose career goals haven’t fundamentally changed since her 2019 marriage to Jonnie West or the arrival in 2020 of the couple’s first child, a daughter they named Makenna.

She remains intent on regaining the form that carried her to five L.P.G.A. tour titles, including the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. To that end, Wie West saw plenty to smile about on Friday at the KPMG Women’s P.G.A. Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club.

She carded a three-under-par 69 for a 36-hole total of two-over 146 to make her second consecutive cut; the first came at the L.P.G.A. stop at her home course in Daly City, Calif., this month. It was also the first time she had advanced to the weekend in a major since the Women’s P.G.A. Championship in 2018.

Nelly Korda made six straight birdies at the end of her round for a nine-under 63 that tied the tournament record and moved her to the top of the leaderboard at 11 under. The first-round leader, Lizette Salas, finished the day one stroke behind Korda, and Céline Boutier of France shot an eight-under 64 that vaulted her into contention at seven under for the tournament.

Maria Fassi of Mexico, at three over, just missed the cut, shooting a 77 that included a two-stroke penalty for slow play.

With groups routinely waiting to hit at every hole, and with rounds taking upward of five and a half hours, Fassi was bewildered. Like the driver pulled over for speeding on the Florida Turnpike, she wondered: With so many culprits, why target her?

“Pretty frustrating,” said Fassi, who added: “Every L.P.G.A. player will tell you that we know who the slow players are, and the rules officials know who they are. And I’m not one of them.”

After her first-round 77, Wie West was woebegone.

“I was definitely moping,” she said.

Then she phoned home to California and spoke with her husband, who had stayed behind with their daughter. As Wie West described it, he delivered a pep talk with a jab. She said he told her to get her head out of her bottom, except he used a coarser word.

“So I did,” Wie West said with a laugh.

Starting on No. 1, she played the first seven holes in four under to climb back into the tournament.

“That was the first time since a really long time where I felt like every hole looked like a birdie hole to me,” Wie West said. “So that was a lot of fun, and I’ll just kind of build on that mojo.”

She negotiated the back nine of the Highlands course in 36 strokes, seven better than on Thursday, leading her to laugh and say, “Most improved on the back nine today.”

The joy emanating from Wie West this week is in stark contrast to her tearful appearance at this event in 2019. Placing ice bags on her wrists between shots to numb the pain, Wie West shot consecutive rounds in the 80s to miss the cut.

After her opening 12-over 84 back then, she was disconsolate about her playing future. Her surgically repaired right hand was not getting better, she said at the time, and there had been so many injuries before that — to her neck, back, hip, knee and ankle — that she had lost faith in her body’s ability to function.

“I’m glad we’re not back at Hazeltine, because that would have brought up some memories,” Wie West said Tuesday at a pretournament news conference.

Wie West said last year that childbirth had restored her faith in her body’s resilience. By surviving the cut Friday, Wie West erased the scars of Hazeltine.

“Very proud of myself for pushing through,” she said, “and hopefully I can shoot low this weekend.”

Wie West carried a crowd of spectators in her wake the first two days, including a woman on Friday who followed her while carrying a sign that read, “Michelle, I love you,” and was impossible for Wie West to miss.

“It’s people like that that make me want to play golf and come back,” Wie West said.

On the green at the par-5 18th, a baby in the gallery began to fuss, and Wie West immediately thought of her daughter and felt a huge jolt of guilt at being apart from her.

“I felt myself tear up, and I was like, ‘Get yourself together,’” Wie West said.

On this day, anyway, Wie West’s mind and body were in sync.

“I know I’m on borrowed time,” Wie West said Tuesday. “I know that every shot matters to me more than anyone can ever imagine.”

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