The talent was awesome. His power was breathtaking.
The potential was unlimited.
No one knew how good he was going to be, or how long it would take him to win. But they saw him coming.
Just like Michelle Wie.
'Everything that you guys have been writing about her is pretty much true,' Ernie Els said after playing a practice round at Waialae Country Club with the 14-year-old prodigy.
Tim Herron saw it two years ago when Wie played in the Sony Open pro-am and hit it just as long.
Vijay Singh saw it last year during the Pro-Junior Challenge at Waialae. He could not believe such a pure swing belonged to a such a young girl. 'She's going to be a star,' Singh said that day.
Few would have expected her to be playing on the PGA Tour so soon.
Wie, a ninth-grader at nearby Ponahou School, is playing Thursday in the Sony Open on a sponsor's exemption. She is believed to be the youngest ever to play on the PGA Tour.
'She's playing on the PGA Tour and she still needs adult supervision to drive a golf cart,' Paul Azinger said, shaking his head after playing with Wie in the six-hole Pro-Junior.
Azinger said Wie reminds him of Woods, for no other reason than the hype.
Word started spreading in Hawaii when Wie shot 64 at Olomana Golf Links at age 10 and qualified for the match-play portion of the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links.
A year later, she beat U.S. Women's Open champion Hilary Lunke to advance to the third round of the Public Links, and in June won the Public Links at age 13, the youngest player to ever win a USGA event for adults.
She qualified for an LPGA Tour event when she was 12 (missed the cut), but last year made six cuts in seven LPGA events, including two majors.
The victories aren't piling up -- the Public Links is her only big trophy -- but the legend continues to grow.
'I never saw Tiger when he was little,' Azinger said. 'But I knew about him. Her potential is undeniable.'
Players figure to learn a little more about Wie over the next two days at Waialae Country Club.
Els is the defending champion, winning on the second hole of a playoff last year when he holed a 55-foot putt from just on the fringe to beat Aaron Baddeley.
The field is strong, with seven of the top 10 players from the money list last year.
Wie has high hopes.
'I really want to make the cut, not matter what,' she said. 'There was this poll that 70 percent think I'm going to miss the cut. So if I miss the cut, no one is going to be sad.'
Annika Sorenstam missed the cut by five shots at the Colonial last year, where she was the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour. Connecticut club pro Suzy Whaley missed the cut by 13 shots at the Greater Hartford Open.
No one is sure what to expect from Wie -- especially after Els played with her.
'I think Michelle, a lot of what she did today reminds me a lot of what Tiger used to do,' Els said. 'As a woman golfer, she's going to take it to the next level.'
Els and Wie -- the Big Easy and the Big Wiesy -- didn't play a match during their practice round, but Els said she shot 3 under on the front nine. 'It would have been a good match,' Els said with a smile.
Imagine what happens when Wie plays against girls her own age.
Well, that's where the record gets interesting.
Wie played in the final group of the Kraft Nabisco Championship last year, but couldn't get out of the first round at the U.S. Women's Amateur. She has won only one significant trophy (Public Links last year), leading some to question whether she's taking on too much too soon.
'Certainly, she's an incredibly talented player,' Davis Love III said. 'I just hope she doesn't run herself around too much before she learns where she's going with her game.
'I just look at Ty Tryon. He had a couple of good tournaments and he got billed as the next Tiger Woods. It was very hard for him. Sometimes, it's easier if you work your way up little by little.'
Tryon was the youngest player to earn his PGA Tour card through Q-school, at age 17. He never came close to keeping his card, and last year didn't make it back to the finals of qualifying.
Wie also wants to play on the PGA Tour, a scenario Els never would have imagined until he played with her.
'Ten years ago, you would never have thought that a girl or a woman would ever have the opportunity -- or even the talent -- to play with us,' Els said. 'Give her another couple of years to get stronger. She can play on this tour.'
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