The Rub of the Greens

By Mercer BaggsJune 5, 2006, 4:00 pm
SUMMIT, NJ -- Michelle Wie walked in separation from her two playing competitors, all alone amidst thousands of people.
 
It wasnt over, her chance to become the first female to qualify for a mens major championship. But it was over.
 
Wie had just bogeyed consecutive holes, three-putting both, to drop to even par in this U.S. Open Sectional qualifier. There were still four holes left to play, and she likely needed three or four more birdies at that point to have any chance of making a playoff.
 
But you could see it in her body language, her head hanging low as she used her driver as a walking stick. She was defeated. And when she bogeyed her third straight hole, it was just salt in the wounds.
 
Monday at Canoe Brook Country Club, Wie almost made history. She should have made history. But she didnt make history.
 
See Michelle Wie's shot-by-shot scorecard
 
Over the course of 36 holes, the 16-year-old hit 16 of 27 fairways and 27 of 36 greens in regulation. She struck the ball wonderfully, for the most part, from tee to green ' just not on the greens.
 
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie needed 30 and 35 putts over her two rounds at Canoe Brook.
Youve got to make putts or youre not going to do good, said the loud man holding a Heineken on Wies 35th hole, smelling like he had just fallen into a keg.
 
The putter failed Wie, pulling a Benedict Arnold at a most inopportune time. She needed 30 putts over her first 18 holes and 35 more over the final 18. She missed no fewer than nine birdie putts inside of 15 feet.
 
I dont know what happened, Wie said about her misfortunes on the greens. I felt like I was playing very well, but my score didnt show it.
 
She managed a 2-under 68 over her first round on the South Course, chipping in from about 20 yards on the par-4 18th for exclamation. At the time, she was right on the cut line. However, she easily could have been leading the tournament. That 68 was about a combined 2 feet of missed birdie putts from being a 64.
 
She needed those extra strokes, needed that margin for error.
 
After 27 holes, she was still at 2 under. Having started her final round on the back nine of the North Course, she walked right past a scoreboard off the 18th and didnt glance up. Everyone else did, including her mother, Bo. But Michelle didnt need to ' she knew she needed a couple of more birdies to be among the worthy 18 to Winged Foot.
 
Instead, she got three more bogeys.
 
There was no drama down the stretch, nothing like the excitement that opened the day. When she finally teed off at 8:51 a.m. EDT, there were close to 1,000 people in the gallery, including countless media members. There were also more than 20 still and video cameras capturing her first strike.
 
The day began with anticipation. People wanted to see how well she could handle herself in this kind of atmosphere against these kind of men, and she did so just fine.
 
Then came reservation. People wanted an excuse to go nuts, but Wie couldnt provide it ' at least not until her 18th hole chip-in. They held their excitement in reserve, waiting and waiting for Wie to go on a run. It was like watching your favorite basketball team keep cutting into a lead, but never being able to take the lead themselves.
 
That led to frustration. The chip-in was followed immediately by a bogey upon her return to action after a quick lunch break. More make-able birdie putts slid by left and right, on the low side and high side, short and long. And then the par putts started to fear the darkness of the hole.
 
That led to realization ' the realization that it wasnt going to happen today.
 
Wie realized it walking down the par-4 sixth hole, her 33rd hole of the day. After chatting amiably with David Gossett and Rick Hartmann for the better part of the morning and afternoon, Wie just wanted to be by herself ' as much as she could among a gallery that had more than doubled in size from start to finish, and one that was mostly unrestricted by rope.
 
She had wanted dearly to do this. Not to make any points. Not to prove anything, really. Just to accomplish a lifelong dream.
 
Im not really here to show that women can actually play, she said after her round. Hopefully, this just shows or motivates people to do what they want to do.
 
She had wanted this so, and as she walked down the fairway to her ball that had come to rest behind a group of trees in the left rough, she had to make peace with the fact that it was not to be this year.
 
This year.
 
Im not going to quit, she said after tying for 59th. I dont see the point in doing that. Im really excited for next year. Hopefully, next year will be the year.
 
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