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Wie advances at Public Links

Posted: Friday, July 15, 2005

LEBANON, Ohio — Michelle Wie is three wins away from an invitation to the Masters.

The 15-year-old from Hawaii birdied three of the final five holes and beat Jim Renner 3 and 1 in her second match of the day Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Public Links.

She conceded that Augusta National has crept into the back of her mind.

''Obviously I'm thinking about that, but I'm taking it one match at a time,'' she said.

Wie, the first female to qualify for a men's USGA championship, earlier won 6 and 5 over C.D. Hockersmith.

The 6-foot girl who nearly made the cut on the PGA Tour twice and was tied for the lead last month in the U.S. Women's Open might be on the verge of her most stunning feat of all.

Augusta National traditionally invites the winner of the Public Links to the Masters, and chairman Hootie Johnson has said the all-male club would welcome Wie or any other female who qualified.

Wie is confident she will play in the Masters, although she's not sure when.

''I don't feel any kind of urgency,'' she said. ''I'm just playing. Hopefully, I'll get in one of these days. It could happen this year, it could be next year, it could be 20 years down the line.''

Wie would have to win two matches for a second straight day to reach the final. She next plays BYU junior Clay Ogden, who defeated Andrew Black of Chattanooga, Tenn., 3 and 2, in the quarterfinals in the morning. The semifinals are Friday afternoon, followed by the 36-hole championship on Saturday.

''I was kind of joking and I actually said that I hoped I play her,'' Ogden said. ''And here we go.''

So far, she has met every challenge.

Wie avoided an early deficit when Renner missed 6-foot birdie tries on his first two holes. She took over from there, going 3 up at the turn with an 18-foot birdie putt at No. 9.

Renner, a junior at Johnson & Wales University in Miami and the NAIA medalist, won two of the next three holes to cut into her lead. But then Wie hit a low 3-iron shot from 220 yards into 15 feet and made the birdie to go 2-up.

''I'd like to see another 15-year-old girl — or a 15-year-old in general — do that,'' Renner said. ''There's not many guys in this tournament who can hit that shot.''

Even Wie was surprised when the ball rolled close to the hole.

''It was an awesome shot for me because my ball was in a divot, I was 220 away and I usually hit my 3 iron about 210,'' she said.

If that wasn't enough, she holed a flop shot from heavy rough left of the 15th green for birdie after Renner seemingly had the hole won with an approach to 4 feet.

Wie said she and caddie Greg Johnston talked about her hitting the shot — and then she did it.

''That's not your typical up-and-down,'' Renner said, shaking his head. ''She played it perfect. That was very impressive.''

Wie closed out the match on the 17th when Renner hit his 8-iron over the green and into a lake.

Wie has left her three match-play victims intimidated and impressed.

''She's every bit the player I've seen on TV,'' said Hockersmith, who lost the first five holes. ''TV makes you look a little taller; she's definitely tall.''



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