Wie Seeks Major Before Return to School

By Associated PressJuly 27, 2005, 4:00 pm
04 Weetabix WomenSOUTHPORT, England -- If Michelle Wie had been collecting paychecks, she'd have more than half a million dollars in the bank by now. Yet, she's still only a 15-year-old amateur getting ready for 11th grade.
 
``If you think about how old I am right now it's a little too much money for me,'' Wie said Wednesday. ``I'm having too much fun as an amateur, just going to tournaments, not having that much pressure money-wise and stuff like that. It's really fun.''
 
Contrast that with Annika Sorenstam.
 
Chasing her career 10th major at the Women's British Open starting Thursday, the Swede is currently where Wie wants to be. At the top of the game.
 
Sorenstam aims to collect her third major of the year and eighth in five seasons when she goes out on the 6,463-yard, par 72 course which is a regular stop for the men's British Open While Wie doesn't have a cent of prize money in the bank, Sorenstam has career earnings of almost $17.4 million.
 
The adventure continues Thursday when Wie makes her Women's British Open debut at Royal Birkdale in a top-class field also featuring fellow teenage star Paula Creamer, who won last week's Evian Masters by eight strokes.
 
``When I play, my mind-set is that I can beat everyone,'' Wie said. ``(But) I don't really think I'm the best yet.''
 
Going into her last tournament before she returns to Hawaii for high school, Wie has three second-place finishes in six tournaments this season. She would have won $530,000 and been ranked No. 13 on the money list.
 
``It's just that I've been so close all year long,'' Wie said. ``I'm so close to being a success. I'm content in some ways and not content in some ways. (I'd feel) very happy if I won this tournament, very happy. It's a hard four days ahead and it's going to be tough.''
 
Although Wie and her parents pick and choose the tournaments she plays in, she has given herself a demanding mix of men's and women's tour events. She missed the cut by two strokes at the John Deere Classic on the PGA Tour and reached the quarterfinals of the men's U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
 
On the LPGA Tour, Wie tied for second at the SBS Open at Turtle Bay, was runner-up to Sorenstam at the LPGA Championship and also tied for second behind Creamer at last week's Evian Masters in France.
 
This week, Wie faces Sorenstam, Juli Inkster, Meg Mallon, Laura Davies, Se Ri Pak and three-time British Open winner Karrie Webb. She says she has no interest in dropping back to amateur or junior events she knows she can win.
 
``You can learn the art of winning out here, too,'' she said. ``And that's what I'm trying to do.''
 
She knows she still has things to improve.
 
``Basically, I would say lots of short game, lots of putting,'' she said. ``The John Deere and the stroke play at the Public Links made me realize how important the last five, six holes are and you can't really take anything for granted.''
 
Wie, who fired Irish caddy Brian Smallwood after a 3-over par 75 in the first round of the Evian Masters, has her father, B.J., caddying for her at the British Open. After her father took over in France, Wie had rounds of 70-68-68 and finished tied for second, eight shots behind Creamer.
 
Sorenstam is upbeat about her chances although her hopes of a Grand Slam of majors ended at the U.S. Women's Open with an 82 and tie for 23rd. She finished 12th at the Evian Masters.
 
``It's totally out of my system,'' she said Wednesday her troubles at the Open. ``To win all four majors is very, very difficult. So, if I set such a lofty goal, I have got to be able to take the consequences.
 
``The season is long, there's a lot of great tournaments left and this is one of them. If I can win three out of four, I would just think it would one of the greatest seasons I've ever had.''
 
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