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Archive for Friday, July 8, 2005

Wie fires 1-under 70 at John Deere

Fifteen-year-old standout sets sights on making cut - and more

July 8, 2005

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— Michelle Wie wants to do more than make history.

The 15-year-old shot 1-under 70 at the John Deere Classic on Thursday, keeping her hopes alive of being the first woman in 60 years to make a cut on the PGA Tour. She was on the right side of the line when she finished, but the cut had moved to 2 under at the end of the day.

"I'm not really thinking about the cut," said Wie, who is tied for 73rd. "I'm only five shots behind (the early leaders), and if I put up three crazy rounds, who knows?"

Go ahead and dream big. It wasn't so long ago the mere idea of a woman playing on the PGA Tour was far-fetched.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias was the last woman to make a cut on the PGA Tour, at the 1945 Tucson Open, and it would be another 58 years before Annika Sorenstam teed it up at the 2003 Colonial. Suzy Whaley played at the Greater Hartford Open later that year; neither women made the cut.

Wie has played the Sony Open the last two years, missing the cut by a stroke in 2004. She missed it by seven strokes this year.

"It's impressive at 15, that's for sure," said Scott Gutschewski, one of Wie's playing partners Thursday. "I don't know how many 15-year-olds could come out here and do that, let alone a 15-year-old girl."

Michelle Wie hits out of a bunker on the second hole. Wie shot a 1-under 70 Thursday in the John Deere Classic at Silvis, Ill.

Michelle Wie hits out of a bunker on the second hole. Wie shot a 1-under 70 Thursday in the John Deere Classic at Silvis, Ill.

This was her second-lowest round in a PGA Tour event, and she beat both her playing partners. She played her last 10 holes at 3 under, had five drives over 290 yards and missed only one putt from inside 10 feet.

She also had one of the most impressive shots of the day, getting within 10 feet of the pin from about 260 yards out on the par-5 17th. She missed her eagle putt, but made a three-footer for birdie to get to 1 under.

Oh yeah, and Hunter Mahan shot an 8-under 63 to take the lead, and J.L. Lewis is one stroke behind.

"She's going to beat a lot of guys today. She'll probably beat a lot of guys tomorrow," said Gutschewski, who finished at even par. "She's going to beat a lot of guys for the rest of her life, I'm sure."

Though Wie is still three months away from her 16th birthday, she already has achieved major-player status. She twice has been second on the LPGA Tour this year, including a runner-up finish at the LPGA Championship, and had a share of the third-round lead at the U.S. Open.

She also has that same megastar appeal Tiger Woods had when he was a teenager. A few hundred people were waiting for her at the first hole, and that number grew to 2,000 by the time she made the turn. By the end of the round, there were 5,000 people on 18.

And, no offense to Gutschewski and Nick Watney, but the crowd wasn't there to see them.

Just as when Woods plays, fans were on the move as soon as she hit or putted, regardless of what Gutschewski or Watney was doing. Her every shot was cheered, and more than a few people were heard saying, "And she's only 15!"

"On the surface, it was a very well played round. Then you realize she's a 15-year-old girl, and it's mind-boggling," said Watney, who shot 4-over 75. "She's a phenom. When I was 15, I sure didn't look like that."

Wie might have been showing some of her age early, when she fell to 2 over with back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 5 and 6. She overshot the green with her second shot on No. 5, and the ball smacked into the netting below the bleachers. It landed about three inches from the netting, and she had to take a drop because she had no shot. She then two-putted for bogey.

On No. 6, she clipped a tree and the ball dropped straight down, landing short of the green. She had an "iffy" pitch shot, and two-putted again for bogey from 12 feet.

"If I had made those two bogeys in a row (last year), it would have been kind of tough because I was really young," Wie said, drawing laughter.

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