Two Roads Diverged


Four years ago, they stormed into the Buckeye State on sharply different paths but with something special in common.
Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie both had stardust on their heels.
They arrived at opposite ends of Ohio with big news on their minds.
Pressel was 17, a little more than a week removed from nearly winning the U.S. Womens Open. She was the nations top amateur when she marched into suburban Toledo for the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic on a sponsors invite. She came announcing that she was petitioning the LPGA for a waiver of its restriction requiring members be at least 18 years old.
Since their early phenom careers, Michelle Wie and Morgan Pressel have crossed paths many times. (Getty Images)
Wie was 15, making her news 150 miles south at Shakers Run Golf Club in Lebanon, where she was vying to win a Masters invite by trying to win the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
They were the hottest teen phenoms in golf, ambitious personalities with polar opposite ideas about how to reach their golf dreams.
Pressel was thundering along golfs traditional path, learning how to win beating juniors and amateurs. Wie was cutting her own path, playing against men and speaking openly about one day playing the PGA Tour.
The fact that no love was lost between them made the possibility of a future rivalry all that much more delicious.
Back then, when Pressel read that B.J. Wie was quoted saying his daughter viewed Tiger Woods as more Michelles rival than Annika Sorenstam, Pressel rolled her eyes.
I would like to see her promote the womens game versus trying to promote herself, Pressel said then.
Four years later, look whos back in Ohio together. Look whos on the leaderboard after the first round of the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.
With her 7-under-par 64 Thursday, Pressel shares the lead with Laura Diaz and Song Hee Kim. Wies a shot back with Suzann Pettersen.
A few short years ago, the sight of Pressel and Wie on a leaderboard together would have jolted LPGA fans off their couches.
A rivalry between these phenoms seemed as inevitable as it was irresistible. Pressel and Wie looked like they were going to sweep the LPGA into a bright new future.
Yeah, its way too early to hope for a Sunday showdown at Highland Meadows Golf Club, but the LPGA could use a bright flash of hope to break the gathering gloom that yet more lousy sponsorship news brought this week. Players left the Wegmans LPGA last week uncertain if that event will be around next year. They arrived at the Jamie Farr to news that the Kapalua LPGA Classic is folding, and then on the eve of this weeks event, Jamie Farr himself said the chances his event will survive are no better than 50-50.
With so many other sponsorship issues brewing, the LPGA could use an exciting diversion this weekend.
While Pressel vs. Wie would be different now, it remains a compelling possibility.
Things have changed from their teen titan days. They actually like each other. They even tweet each other on Twitter.
Pressel, a two-time LPGA winner, is only 21, but shes remaking her game, revamping her swing and that comes with growing pains. Two years ago, she was No. 4 in the Rolex Womens World Golf Rankings, the highest ranked American.
Today, shes No. 37 in the world, but shes showing signs that her new swings coming together. She got herself in the final Sunday pairing last weekend at the Wegmans LPGA before fading in the rain. It was encouraging progress with her favorite event, the U.S. Womens Open, coming up next week.
On Thursday, Pressel played alongside world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa and No. 2 Yani Tseng and outplayed them both, bettering Ochoa by three shots and Tseng by four.
Wie, 19, has been up and down in her rookie year since finishing second in the season-opening SBS Open at Turtle Bay. She failed to qualify for the U.S. Womens Open with a poor finish in the sectional qualifier in Maryland last month. A Wie victory this weekend would do more than get her into next weeks U.S. Womens Open. It holds the potential of reigniting Wie Mania.
It may be too much to hope for with so many other strong players in the mix, but should Pressel and Wie turn this event into a showdown, it would put more than a jolt into the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.
It would put a jolt into the entire tour.
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