Wie struggles in quest to make Sony Open cut

Friday, January 14, 2005

HONOLULU -- After scrambling to salvage a 5-over 75, Michelle Wie plopped down in a chair and playfully stuck out her bottom lip as if she had just been scolded.

The 15-year-old quickly found one positive note from a tough time Thursday in the Sony Open.

"At least I'm not in last place," Wie said.

Wie finished better than 10 men among early starters on a blustery day at Waialae Country Club, but she was nine shots behind co-leaders Stewart Cink and Brett Quigley, and facing an uphill path to her dream of making the cut.

Still, she wasn't the only one who struggled.

The Kona wind, rare for these parts, gusted up to 25 mph and wreaked havoc on most everyone. Two-time defending champion Ernie Els had to birdie the last hole for a 71, while Vijay Singh stumbled home to a 69.

"It was hard hitting every shot -- the drive, approach shot was difficult," Singh said. "It's tough for the boys over here, you know? Going to be tough for a girl here, too."

Wie opened with a 72 last year at the Sony Open, then followed that with a 68 -- the lowest score ever by a female competing on a men's tour -- to miss the cut by one shot.

Given the conditions, her 75 wasn't that bad. And she hit several shots she didn't have last year, such as a knockdown driver to keep the ball low into a wind that caused palm trees to sway.

"I was very impressed, all the different shots she was playing," said Matt Davidson, a Q-school grad who unwittingly made his PGA Tour debut playing in front of some 3,000 people, enough to line every fairway from tee-to-green, standing six-deep behind the ninth green when they finished the round.

"I didn't feel like I was playing with a 15-year-old girl," Davidson said. "She's very polished. She has all the tools to be out here."

Brett Wetterich also played with Wie and had a 70.

Quigley and Cink each shot 66, and hardly anyone noticed. Almost everyone at Waialae came to watch the 10th-grader from Punahou School try to prove she can play with the boys.

Quigley birdied both par 5s, but really made up ground with a chip-in from 60 feet for birdie on No. 1, which plays into the wind and left even the strongest players reaching for a 3-iron for their second shot.

"That was stealing two shots there, for sure," Quigley said.

Cink was among those who had a chance at victory last week at Kapalua in the winners-only Mercedes Championships until he bogeyed two of three last holes. He got right back into the mix with a steady, bogey-free round that included an eagle on the par-5 ninth.

Chad Campbell also was 4 under with nine holes to play. Dean Wilson, the only card-carrying member on the PGA Tour from Hawaii, started the week as the fourth alternate and got in when enough players withdrew. He made the most of his chance and was 3 under at the turn.

Still, all eyes were on the 15-year-old prodigy with a big game and big dreams.

Her only birdie came on her third hole, the par-4 12th, which showed her awesome potential. She hit a stinger driver off the tee, then knocked down a 6-iron that faded gently to 6 feet.

She was even par for the round until a few errant drives cost her. A tee shot on the 16th found the left rough, and Wie had to lay up short of the green, eventually missing a 20-foot par putt.

Her only big gaffe came on the 17th, a 187-yard hole framed by the Pacific Ocean on the left and deep bunkers on the right. Her 4-iron into the stiff wind -- the same club Els used earlier -- went right, and she three-putted from 20 feet for a double bogey.

Wie missed a 5-footer for birdie on No. 18, dropped another shot on No. 1, three-putted from long range on the second hole, and it looked as if her round was getting away from her.

She turned it around by saving par from a bunker on No. 3, the first of four quality par saves the rest of the day.

"If I didn't make a par there, who knows what the score would be?" she said. "It could have gone both ways. If the putting had gone, it could have been much lower. I could have made five or six bogeys, but I hung in there."

Whether she gets to hang around for the weekend looked doubtful. The top 70 and ties after two rounds make the cut, and Wie was hopeful of being the first female since Babe Zaharias in the 1945 Tucson Open to do that.

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