'I saw Tiger before he turned pro,' Els said. 'I think Michelle, a lot of what she did today reminds me a lot of what Tiger used to do. As a woman golfer, she's going to take it to the next level.'
Els had never seen Wie play, although he had heard the comparisons. Tom Lehman gave her the nickname 'Big Wiesy' two years ago because her height (6 feet) and tempo reminded him of Els.
'Everything that you guys have been writing about her is pretty much true,' Els said. 'She a true phenomenon, and she's a great person.'
Wie is believed to be the youngest player to compete on the PGA Tour. She has played Waialae Country Club about two dozen times; her lowest score was a 65.
Els wouldn't guess what she would shoot in the Sony Open, or whether she would make the cut.
But asked about her future, he predicted no limits.
'I don't think I've ever seen a lady golfer swing the club as good as Michelle does,' Els said. 'Annika (Sorenstam) obviously swings it great, but I think when Michelle gets into her stride, she's going to be hitting the ball as long as any woman has ever hit it before.'
Wie made the cut in six out of seven LPGA events last year, two of them majors. She missed the cut on the Canadian and Nationwide tours when competing against the men.
Els said he wouldn't be surprised to see her with a PGA Tour card one day.
'Give her another couple of years to get stronger,' he said. 'She can play on this tour. If she keeps working, doing the right things, there's no reason why she shouldn't be out here. But to get out here will be a long, hard journey to travel. It will be easier for her to play on the LPGA Tour. But it's there for her.'
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