Butterflies and Solid Play for Wie

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2005 Samsung World ChampionshipPALM DESERT, Calif. -- Michelle Wie listened for her name to be announced, waved to a gallery that was perched among the desert fauna at Bighorn, then gracefully bent over to stick a tee in the ground.
 
It was no different from any of the 93 previous rounds she played against the pros.
 
Only when she steadied her 6-foot frame over the ball did it start to sink in. The 16-year-old from Hawaii, still waiting to get her driver's license, was about to embark on her professional career.
 
``I wasn't that nervous when I put the ball on the tee,'' she said. ``I wasn't that nervous when I took my practice swings. But once I got over my tee shot, my heart was thumping. It was different.''
 
Her 3-wood soared against the brown-and-green backdrop of desert golf into the fairway, and she was off. And when the first round of the Samsung World Championship ended with a bogey from the bunker for a 2-under 70 -- six shots behind defending champion Annika Sorenstam -- it felt like any other round on the LPGA Tour she has been playing since she was 12.
 
Not much different, either, was the name atop the leaderboard.
 
Watching the Michelle Wie Show unfold in the group ahead, Sorenstam went about her business with alarming precision on her way to an 8-under 64, a score that could have been even lower except for missing birdie putts inside 5 feet on the final two holes.
 
It was a sobering reminder that while Wie has the richest endorsement contracts and all the attention, Sorenstam has the most trophies.
 
The 35-year-old Swede didn't see it that way.
 
``Honestly, I didn't feel like I'm here to prove anything.,'' Sorenstam said. ``I know where I am on the money list. I'm here to reach my own goals, play my own golf. I see this as an opportunity to win this tournament for the fifth time.''
 
Sorenstam had a one-shot lead over Gloria Park and Cristie Kerr, who played with Wie and welcomed her to the professional ranks with four birdies on her first five holes.
 
Kerr has been playing practice rounds with Wie since the Hawaii sensation was 13, and she knew what to expect -- not just the prodigious tee shots, but the media hype around it. Even before she stepped onto the first tee, Kerr asked that a TV crew be moved outside the ropes. And though she was five shots better than Wie, she was impressed.
 
``I came out here straight out of high school,'' Kerr said. ``My first shot, I think I shanked it, or I at least hit it poorly. She striped it down the middle. It was fun to watch.''
 
Wie wound up in a tie for 12th among the 20-player field, dropping shots on two of the last five holes with a tee shot that caromed off the trees on the 14th, and hitting twice into bunkers on the closing hole.
 
It was steady, not spectacular. Even so, Wie showed she belongs.
 
``We have the best 20 players here, and she's one of them,'' Lorie Kane said after a 66.
 
Bighorn doesn't draw large galleries to the hilly course tucked in the foothills of the Santa Rosa mountains, although most of the fans took spots in the scrub brush and cacti to watch Wie launch her professional career.
 
Nike chairman Phil Knight was in the crowd -- he wasn't in Milwaukee when Tiger Woods made his pro debut -- along with three others from the Swoosh staff. Wie's entourage included mom and dad, swing coach David Leadbetter and his wife, three executives from the William Morris Agency, agent Ross Berlin and his wife.
 
The big difference comes Sunday, when Wie collects her first paycheck in a tournament with no cut.
 
``I haven't thought about playing for money or more pressure,'' Wie said. ``Once I started playing, it wasn't any different.''
 
Wie played 24 times on the LPGA Tour and competed five times against the men during an amateur career in which she spent more time playing against the pros. She joined them last week in Honolulu, signing lucrative deals with Nike and Sony, instantly making more endorsement money than even Sorenstam.
 
She showed poise, patience and the usual amount of frustration over her putting.
 
After a wedge into 18 inches for a tap-in birdie on her second hole, she faced her first test. Her drive on the par-5 third hole went right into a small piece of desert, the ball nestled in a tiny bush with a rock the size of a bowling ball possibly getting in the way of her next shot.
 
Rather than take a risk, Wie took a one-shot penalty to move it to the sand and punched out. She hit her fourth shot into 3 feet and escaped with par.
 
``I could have played it left-handed,'' Wie said. ``But it was the third hole on the first day, so I thought I'd just take an unplayable. I made par anyway.''
 
She made her share of birdies, too, twice on the par 5s by getting around the green in two, and an 18-foot birdie putt on the 10th hole, the longest putt she made all day.
 
Wie was three shots off the lead at that point, tied for fifth, until her two mistakes cost her.
 
``The most memorable thing was I hit the first fairway,'' she said. ``That was pretty cool. Obviously, some things didn't go as well as I planned.''
 
Sorenstam had few complaints, although the atmosphere was different. Sorenstam is no stranger to low numbers, but it's rarely this quiet when she's making so many birdies. All the attention was in the group ahead, and that was OK with the 35-year-old Swede.
 
``It's a big step for her to turn pro,'' Sorenstam said. ``I think she can handle it.''
 
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