Wie Off to Good Start at John Deere

By Associated PressJuly 7, 2005, 4:00 pm
SILVIS, Ill. --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.
 
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie had plenty to smile about after her 1-under 70.
``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 farfetched.
 
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.''
 
But the girl can play.
 
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 3-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's already achieved major-player status. She's been second twice 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 couple 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 were 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 3 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. ``I'm pretty young now, but I've gotten a lot older and more mature. I have a lot more experience. I know what to expect.''
 
She finally righted herself on No. 9, from the most unlikely of places.
 
Her tee shot sailed right and just over the rope, leaving her without a view of the hole from 210 yards out. But she put her second shot on the green, about 30 feet above the hole, and rolled the putt in.
 
``I haven't played that big slice in a long time,'' she said. ``It has been like at least a year since I played that shot. That was like the pivotal point. I really trusted in myself, and it felt great. It was really good.''
 
Wie made a 12-footer on the 11th hole to get back to even par, doing a combination fist pump and wave to the crowd after the ball dropped in.
 
Her birdie on the 17th easily could have been an eagle.
 
With about 260 yards to the green on her second shot, Wie hit a 3 wood to within 10 feet. There were cheers and whistles from those sitting around the green, and Wie smiled as she walked up the fairway.
 
Her eagle putt broke too far right, leaving her 3 feet from the hole, but she made that for birdie.
 
``I was kind of disappointed on that hole,'' Wie said. ``I felt like I should have made an eagle there, but I was still happy with the birdie.''
 
She wasn't happy with herself on 18, either. After her second shot landed in a trap below the green, Wie waved her club and stamped her right foot. But she still managed to save par, making a 15-footer to close out her round.
 
``The front nine I just was a little bit shaky and made a lot of stupid bogeys,'' Wie said. ``But I'm pretty proud of myself for getting back on track. The back nine was pretty solid, and I feel like I'll see some good scores from now on.''
 
Divots:
Wie's group was put on the clock on the 10th hole. They were taken off on the 13th hole. ... CNBC will televise the end of Wie's second round Friday.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - John Deere Classic
  • Full Coverage - John Deere Classic
     
    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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