PINEHURST, N.C. — In the midst of throwing away a four-shot lead, Michelle Wie never lost sight of the big picture at Pinehurst No. 2 on Saturday.
The U.S. Women's Open rarely goes according to plan. Wie knows that from experience, and she settled down to finish with four consecutive pars and a 54-hole share of the lead for the third time.
Wie was a teenager the other two times. Now 24, she is one round away from her first major title.
"I'm just grateful for another opportunity," said Wie, the second-round leader, after shooting 2-over 72 to sit at 2-under 208 with Amy Yang.
Karrie Webb, who went the final 12 holes without a bogey for 70 and sat five back at 3 over, had a different perspective: "Michelle Wie has put a few of us back into the tournament. Two hours ago, I didn't think I had a shot."
Yang had four bogeys and three birdies in her first seven holes. A bogey at No. 18 cost her the solo lead and left her at 68 for the round.
The South Korean, 24, seeks her first U.S. Women's Open title but can draw on some experience. She was the runnerup to Na Yeon Choi two years ago after playing in the final group with her. She finished tied for 10th in 2011 and tied for fifth in 2010.
"Still working on it, but I'm much better at controlling my emotion and controlling the nervous feeling," Yang said. "I think it's going to be a fun round (today). I'm also good friends with Michelle, so I think it's going to be a good round."
Wie's pivotal moment came at No. 12 after reaching 6 under for the tournament with birdies at Nos. 9 and 10 but getting a double bogey at No. 11.
Her tee shot hooked into the pine trees. Her next drive sailed well to the right and settled on a sandy path. Instead of punching under the trees and over the bunker to the green — anything long is a tough up-and-down — she pitched out to the fairway and made bogey.
"U.S. Opens are tough," Wie said. "Maybe on a different golf course I would have taken that chance (to go up-and-down). You just don't want to be too greedy. Even though you make bogey, sometimes you just don't want to make a double out here."
Lexi Thompson began the day in second, three back of Wie, whom she outdueled to win the first major this year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She pulled within a shot with birdies at Nos. 3 and 5, then fell apart.
Thompson missed the green to the left on No. 8 — the worst spot at Pinehurst — and her first chip fell down the slope, leading to double bogey.
On the next hole, she went long over the green and chose to take relief she didn't need from a white line marking the TV tower. Thompson went to the drop zone, but her ball rolled into a divot. Worse, she still used her putter, and the ball hopped high out of the divot and had no chance to reach the green. She made double bogey, then bogeyed Nos. 14-16. She birdied the final hole for a 74 that left her at 3 over.
Juli Inkster, the 53-year-old Hall of Famer who has said this is her last U.S. Open, had a tournament-best 66 to tie for second at 2 over. She seeks her third Open title, which would make her the oldest Open winner by 10 years. "If I'm tied for the lead coming up 18, then maybe I'll think about it," she said. "I've got a long way to go. I'm just going to enjoy the moment and hit a few balls and see what happens."
U.S. Women's Open leaderboard
Amy Yang 71-69-68 208 -2
Michelle Wie 68-68-72 208 -2
Juli Inkster 71-75-66 212 +2
Stephanie Meadow (a) 71-72-69 212 +2
Minjee Lee (a) 69-71-72212 +2
Na Yeon Choi 71-70-71 212 +2
Lexi Thompson 71-68-74 213 +3
Stacy Lewis 67-73-74 214 +4
Brittany Lincicome 77-70-69 216 +6
TV today: 3 p.m., Ch. 8
Weather: Showers or thunderstorms, high 87, 40 percent chance of rain