GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. - If you don't believe time flies, then check out Michelle Wie at this weekend's ShopRite LPGA Classic.

It was just eight short years ago that Wie, who hadn't even entered high school yet, played in this event on a sponsor's exemption and tied for 52d place. People were so eager to see the 13-year-old that the tournament office ran out of tickets during the second round that Saturday.

Wie now is officially an adult, having celebrated her 21st birthday in October. You could say she's all grown up, but she's pretty much the same height she was back in 2003, when she was blasting drives down the fairway at Seaview Resort's Bay Course and leaving fans shaking their heads in disbelief.

"It's fun, not really that much different," Wie said Thursday of her adult status.

Wie is back at the Shore as part of a loaded field, which includes 96 of the top 100 players on the LPGA money list, for Friday's start of the 54-hole, $1.5 million ShopRite event.

After three top-10 finishes in her six starts this year, Wie is ready to try to break into the winner's circle for the third time since her LPGA rookie season of 2009.

"You know, it's a very fine line - a putt here, a putt there, a drive here, a shot there," said Wie, 10th on the tour's money list. "Sometimes it has something to do with luck as well. Hopefully, this week I can get it all together.

"It is what it is every week. I'm coming into it, I'm working hard, and I'm trying my best to get my A-game together. I'm excited to play. I'm really working on my game. It's nice to try and exhibit it during this tournament."

The fact that Wie has finished in the top 10 in 50 percent of her 2011 events mirrors the performance trend for her career. In 46 tournaments since she officially became a tour member, she has been in the top 10 on 23 occasions, including wins in the 2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational and the 2010 Canadian Women's Open.

To get into the winner's circle again this weekend, Wie will have to get off to a better start than she did last year, when she opened with a 74. She wound up in a tie for 46th place, 14 strokes behind winner Ai Miyazato.

The Bay Course has been buffeted by steady winds the last two days. If it stays windy, the winning score could be well off the 16-under posted last year by Miyazato.

Wie said that the stiff breezes make the course "more interesting," and that she was hitting longer clubs for approach shots during Thursday's pro-am than in her practice round the previous day. Then there is the issue of thick fescue around the bunkers that has been added since last year's tournament.

"The fescue is pretty thick," Wie said. "I think the wind condition makes it pretty tough. The greens aren't really as soft as I wanted them to be, they're pretty firm. So I think it's playing pretty challenging. But you've just got to keep it in the fairway, get on the green, and make some putts."

At 6,150 yards, the course does not play into the hands of a long hitter such as Wie, who is second on the tour in driving distance with a 274-yard average. So her focus, she said, will be to "keep it in the right part of the fairway and on the right side of the green."

Wie will reach another milestone in her life in March, when she graduates from Stanford with a degree in communications. Right now, she is finishing up a paper: "The Internet and whether or not code is more important than national or state law and regulating behavior online," she said.

Wie is proud that she'll graduate in 41/2 years with all the juggling she's done between classes and golf. She has managed to play around 20 tournaments a year, close to a full schedule.

"So I haven't really been laying off much on the golf per se," she said. "But it will be nice to come back from playing and just sitting on the couch and doing nothing without having to pull my laptop out."

Indeed, eight years have gone by quickly.

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.