Wie fades down the stretch

Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2005

LEBANON, Ohio (AP) — Michelle Wie faded down the stretch again and shot a 6-over 76 on the first day of stroke play at the men's Amateur Public Links on Monday.

Playing in front of a huge gallery, the 15-year-old tied for 84th in the 156-player field. The low 64 scorers over 36 holes of medal play — the second 18 is Tuesday — move on to match play on Wednesday.

Wie, who won the 2003 Women's Amateur Public Links, is playing in the men's APL because the winner traditionally gets an invitation to the Masters. She just missed the cut at the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic last week, finding trouble on the final few holes.

It was more of the same Monday. She shot a 41 on the back nine.

''I played the front nine on Sunday, so I knew what I was doing,'' Wie said. ''I breezed through the back nine. I didn't have a clue how it would play under tournament conditions.''

She said a score around even-par 70 might be good enough to get her into match play.

''Par's a good score — that's what I'll be thinking tomorrow,'' she said.

Chan Song, the older brother of twin sisters Naree and Aree Song, who play on the LPGA Tour, and Garrett Jones of Rewey, Wis., shared the first-round lead after opening at 6-under 66. U.S. Junior Amateur champion Sihwan Kim was in a four-way tie for third after a 69.

Wie played the first 10 holes at Shaker Run Golf Club in even-par, then had two double-bogeys and two more bogeys on the way into the clubhouse.

At the par-3 11th, she hit her approach into the lagoon in front of the green.

''I hit a great shot and it was going right at the hole but a gust of wind came up,'' she said. ''It was like someone took the ball and threw it down.''

After taking a drop, her third shot went through the green and she two-putted from just over 20 feet for a 5.

She followed that with consecutive bogeys and then parred three holes in a row before finding more trouble at the par-5 17th. Attempting to hit a 3-wood over trees guarding the left side of the dogleg, she hit a high draw that ended up hitting a tree and ricocheting into a lake. She took a drop, hit an iron out of the deep rough and put her approach on the front of the green before three-putting for a 7.

Wie was a huge attraction even before she hit the course.

More than 300 people lined the back perimeter of the driving range to watch her hit balls, with several hundred more awaiting her arrival on the first tee. When Wie left the practice tee, there was not a single spectator who stayed behind.

The gallery watching her was frequently stacked three or four deep behind each green. This is the first time that the sponsoring U.S. Golf Association has ever put ropes around all the tees and all the greens at an APL to keep spectators away from the players.

Bill McCarthy, the USGA staffer in charge of the championship, said he's never seen anything like it at an Amateur Public Links event.

''I can only say that during stroke play we might see some immediate family and friends of the players,'' he said. ''Occasionally, if we have a popular local player, we might have 20 or 30 players with a group. So this was, what, about 1,000 percent bigger?''

Six TV cameras were trained on Wie as she teed off on the first hole.

Her playing partners, unaccustomed to playing in front of large crowds, were jittery from the outset.

Ed McDugle, a high school teacher and girls golf coach from Memphis, Tenn., tried to break up the tension by doing a little recruiting.

''I told her my No. 3 girl was transferring and that a couple of my seniors graduated,'' said McDugle, who shot a 77. ''My No. 1 and No. 2 girls are going to be pretty good, but I told her I could find a spot for her if she moved to Memphis.''

Duke Butler of Ponte Vedra, Fla., rounding out Wie's group, shot a 71 and came away impressed with the teenager from Hawaii.

''She has the best fundamentals of anybody I've ever played golf with,'' Butler said.

Wie bogeyed the opening hole after hitting her second shot to the par-5 hole about 30 yards left of and over the green. She hit a delicate chip over a trap that rolled through the green and she chipped up and two-putted for the bogey.

At the second hole, she drilled a long drive, hit her approach to 8 feet and drilled the putt. A woman in the gallery yelled, ''Go, Michelle!'' just as the ball fell in the cup.

The crowd was so big at the 10th hole that it looked like the British Open, with fans moving into the fairway to circle the green.



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