EVIAN, France (AP) – Michelle Wie knows it’s tough keeping up with the best men in the game.

In the French Alps on Wednesday, she learned beating golf’s top female money winner this season – Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa – won’t be much easier.

Ochoa, Mi Hyun Kim and Shani Waugh shot 6-under 66 to lead the Evian Masters, where temperatures reached an unseasonable 91 degrees. Ochoa birdied seven holes but bogeyed the 15th for her 66.

“I hit it close today and did not have that many long putts,” said Ochoa, the runner-up with Wie here a year ago when Paula Creamer won the tournament. Creamer opened this time with a 70.

Karrie Webb was one shot behind after a 67, with Maria Hjorth, Laura Davies and Se Ri Pak in at 68. Wie had a 69, tied with the game’s top-ranked player, Annika Sorenstam.

In the steamy conditions, players sought shade and liquids to avoid Wie’s fate at the John Deere Classic earlier this month, where she was forced out of the men’s tournament in the second round with heat exhaustion.

“I was smart today,” Wie said. “I drank a lot of water with electrolytes. I stayed in the shade. I had my sun umbrella. It helped a lot. I’m just taking baby steps.”

Wie’s round almost collapsed on the 17th.

She was 2 under when her second shot at the par-3 bounced off the green and into the rough.

She angrily kicked a divot out of the grass and swung her club, stopping just short of smacking the ground.

“Unfortunately, I hit my 52-degree (wedge) a little too hard, and it went into the hill,” Wie said.

She settled for a bogey – she chipped back and dropped an eight-foot putt – and left tightlipped as she walked off the green.

But she showed maturity on the final hole, carding an eagle-3 to finish at 3 under. She sent her drive into the rough, but hit a 5-iron to 40 feet and made the putt.

“I ended on a good note,” the 16-year-old Hawaiian said.

Kim could have been leading.

The South Korean had nine birdies – including one on 18 – but double bogeyed No. 8 and dropped another shot at 14.

“Last week was an off week, and I had a four-day lesson with my coach,” Kim said. “We made my swing a little more compact, and it is working. I had some great shots today. My putting was good, and I feel more comfortable with my short game, too.”

Waugh birdied five of her first seven holes and finished with seven birdies. Her only dropped shot was a bogey on the par-4 12th.

Heather Young, the winner of the 2005 Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, scored a hole-in-one to win a new Renault Modus car.

The 31-year-old Texan shot a 69.

AP-ES-07-26-06 1413EDT

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