Wie struggles with best at Sony Open

Posted: Friday, January 14, 2005

 

  Michelle Wie reacts to missing her putt on the 13tht green during the first round of the Sony Open Thursday, Jan. 13, 2005, at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hi. Wie shot a 5 over par on the day. AP Photo/Matt York

Michelle Wie reacts to missing her putt on the 13tht green during the first round of the Sony Open Thursday, Jan. 13, 2005, at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hi. Wie shot a 5 over par on the day.

AP Photo/Matt York

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 was better than 14 men on a blustery day at Waialae Country Club, but she was nine shots behind Stewart Cink, Brett Quigley, Tom Byrum and Hank Kuehne, who each shot 66 for a share of the lead.

Her dream is to become the first female to make the cut since the Babe Zaharias in the 1945 Tucson Open, and the odds are no longer in her favor.

''I think if I shoot under par tomorrow, if I end up at like 1 over par, maybe I'll make it,'' Wie said. ''But I'm definitely going to go for under par.''

She didn't get much help when the rare Kona wind, which gusted up to 25 mph, calmed slightly in the afternoon to stabilize the scoring. Scoring was 1 1/2 strokes higher than last year.

Wie wound up in a tie for 120th (she was 105th last year), and was four shots below the projected cut.

But she wasn't the only one who struggled in the wind.

Two-time defending champion Ernie Els had to birdie the last hole for a 71, his first round over par in the 17 rounds he has played at Waialae. Vijay Singh was hanging around the early leaders on the strength of an eagle at No. 9, but he took a sloppy bogey on the par-5 18th for 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.''

The comeback of the day belonged to Retief Goosen, who hit his first two tees shots out-of-bounds, made 9 on the first hole and played the rest of the way 3 under for a 72.

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 after his 77. ''She's very polished. She has all the tools to be out here.''

Brett Wetterich also played with Wie and had a 70.

Hardly anyone noticed the leaders. Almost everyone at Waialae came to watch the 10th-grader from Punahou School try to prove she can play with the boys.

Byrum was even par through 10 holes and finished with two birdies. He was among the 47 players who finished behind Wie a year ago and asked what she shot Thursday.

''She's going to be a great player,'' he said. ''I might want to beat her now while I can.''

Paul Azinger, Chad Campbell and Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman were among those at 67 on a day in which only 29 players in the field of 144 broke par.

Azinger played with Daniel Chopra, who was 5 over with two holes to play and birdied them both. The threesome joked about how Chopra rallied hard to avoid losing to a 15-year-old, although Azinger put it in perspective.

''There's no shame in losing to that girl,'' he said. ''She's incredible. She hits it like a man.''

Wie's 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.''

Divots: Dean Wilson, the only exempt PGA Tour player from Hawaii, did not get a sponsor's exemption but made the field as the fourth alternate. He shot 69. ... With all the rain in California, the PGA Tour posted a notice in the locker room that Torrey Pines, site of the Buick Invitational next week, has received 8 inches of rain in the last two weeks. But the forecast looks good, and while the tour said the South Course has a dozen trees down, it expects good conditions next week.

... Craig Stadler and Tom Kite had a 71, the best score among the four Champions Tour players. Stadler tied his son, Kevin Stadler, making his debut as a PGA Tour member.



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