Wie more confident about making cut at men's event

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The 16-year-old will take another shot Thursday when the John Deere Classic begins.

SILVIS, Ill. -- Michelle Wie feels all grown up now.

She looked like she belonged on the PGA Tour, one shot better than the cut line with momentum on her side last year at the John Deere Classic. Then came a double bogey on her 15th hole with two shots into a bunker and three putts from 20 feet. Her next shot sailed far right of the green, smacking off a cart path. And after missing the cut by two shots, it was time to go home.

What makes her think she can stick around all four days this year?

"I made a couple bad decisions coming into the final holes, but I was only 15," Wie said Tuesday. "I can make mistakes when I'm 15. Hopefully, I learned from those mistakes that I made last year, and hopefully, I won't do them this year."

Her next shot at history starts Thursday, when she tees it up on the PGA Tour for the fifth time, hopeful of becoming the first woman since Babe Zaharias in 1945 to make the cut on the PGA Tour.

"I feel better about my game," Wie said.

And yes, she feels like she's on the brink of something special.

She keeps coming closer to her first professional victory, and first of any kind since she won the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links at age 13.

She has finished a combined five shots out of the lead in three LPGA majors this year, lipping out a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole at the Kraft Nabisco Championship to miss out on a playoff. And the last time Wie played against the men, she made the cut on the Asian Tour, finishing 12 shots out of the lead in the SK Telecom Open.

Now, she's back at TPC Deere Run.

She's comfortable with the course. And defending champion Sean O'Hair predicted she will make the cut after Tuesday's practice round with Wie, Zach Johnson and Jason Day.

Johnson said Wie is hitting the ball farther than last year. And the rest of her game is fine, too.

"She's going to have a bunch of opportunities, and she's just a phenomenal talent," Johnson said. "She's good."

And good for the tournament, O'Hair said.

With most of the top golfers preparing for the British Open, Wie brings attention to an event that would probably slip by quietly, otherwise.

"If you watch the ratings this week, they're going to go sky high," O'Hair said. "And it's great for the event. There's no negative part to it."

The expectations are high. And Wie shrugs them off, saying, "That's natural."

She added, "I'm just out here for myself, and my parents still love me even though I don't win tournaments. It's great."

Wie has come close to winning in three women's majors this year, just as she came close to making the cut last year at the John Deere.

"People's expectations are going to go up," she said. "But I just feel like I'm playing very well right now, playing very solid, and it's going to happen."

Which would be a bigger accomplishment: Making the cut against the men or winning against the women?

"Well, I'll tell you after I do both," she said.

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