Wie Impressive Despite Missed Cut

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SILVIS, Ill. -- Sometimes it takes a good cry for Michelle Wie to get over a disappointment. Other times, punching something does the trick.
 
There's no need for either this weekend. Despite a stunning collapse that cost her a historic finish at the John Deere Classic, the 15-year-old knows her time is coming.
 
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie had plenty of reasons to smile despite missing the cut.
And it could be sooner than most expected.
 
``On the LPGA Tour, I made the cut on my fourth try,'' she said. ``My fourth try (on the PGA Tour) is coming up, so I'm really looking forward to that.''
 
That's not just teenage precociousness talking. Though Wie showed her inexperience with disasters on two of her last four holes, causing her to miss the cut by two strokes, she also showed she can hold her own with the boys.
 
She played a PGA Tour event at 1 under, and her tie for 88th equaled that of three-time major champion Nick Price. She finished ahead of 54 men, including former British Open champ David Duval and playing partner Nick Watney.
 
``I think she played very well,'' said Watney, who was six strokes behind Wie. ``It was unfortunate what happened, but I'm sure she'll come back better the next time.''
 
No woman has made a PGA Tour cut since Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1945. No one even tried again until Annika Sorenstam teed it up at the 2003 Colonial, and only Suzy Whaley and Wie have played PGA Tour events since then.
 
But while Sorenstam played with the men as a way to gauge her game, Wie wants to do this on a regular basis. Some have said she should win a few LPGA tournaments first -- or, better yet, junior events -- but she feels the best way to get better is by playing with the best.
 
Look at the results. When she missed the cut by seven strokes at the Sony Open in January, poor putting was partly to blame. This week, Wie ranked 20th in putting. She made all but two from within 10 feet, and was 2-for-3 from 15 to 20 feet.
 
She had only one three-putt, though it was the start of her downfall Friday.
 
``She played very well. Good putter, very good short game,'' said Scott Gutschewski, one of Wie's playing partners. ``I was very impressed with her short game, and she hits the ball straight. So a pretty good combination for 15. You don't see too many 15-year-olds with a short game like that.''
 
Her long game got better, too. When she arrived at the TPC at Deere Run, B.J. Wie said his daughter's drives were averaging about 260 yards. During her two rounds, she averaged almost 277 yards, including a 310-yard drive both days on No. 2.
 
``Coming to the PGA, she always has such a sense of privilege,'' B.J. Wie said. ``She has a great respect for PGA players, and she always learns from the best.''
 
She's also starting to show the kind of flair that sets great players apart. She was so far right off the tee she couldn't even see the No. 9 green on Thursday. But from 200 yards out, she played a slice that not only reached the green, but allowed her to make birdie.
 
On Friday, the 18th pin was tucked along the bottom of the green, a few feet from a pond. The safe shot would have been the middle of the green. But she went for it, putting her second shot within 6 inches.
 
``I feel like my game is a lot more consistent,'' she said. ``I feel like I'm in the little control room pressing the buttons now. It feels good.''
 
There is, of course, still room for improvement. She's going to have to get stronger if she wants to compete with the men on a regular basis, and her trainer has her lifting free weights and doing exercises to improve her balance.
 
She also needs to improve her focus. At 4 under through 14 holes Friday, she lost control stunningly quick, three-putting for a double-bogey on No. 6 and shanking her tee shot on No. 7.
 
``I just really realized how important the last six holes are. I just have to think about that from now on,'' she said. ``Even though I played the front nine, I just have to start all over and play great the back nine, too. And that's not what I did.''
 
But she's only 15. Tiger Woods didn't even play his first PGA Tour event until he was 16, missing the cut in the 1992 Nissan Open at Riviera with rounds of 72-75. It took him eight tries to make a cut, and he was 19 when he tied for 41st at the Masters.
 
Wie plans to keep playing occasional PGA Tour events, and she's playing in the men's U.S. Amateur Public Links next week at Shaker Run in Lebanon, Ohio. The winner has traditionally gotten a spot in the Masters. Her father also left open the possibility she could turn pro after she turns 16 in October.
 
``As Todd Hamilton said the other day, she's going to make a cut on the PGA Tour,'' said Clair Peterson, tournament director at the John Deere Classic. ``If it wasn't today, someday.''
 
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