No 10 Wie Nearly Upset the World

By George WhiteDecember 15, 2004, 5:00 pm
2004 Stories of the YearEditor's note: We are counting down the top 10 stories in golf for the 2004 season. This is Story No. 10.
 
While the rest of her ninth grade class was busy taking semester exams, Michelle Wie was taking on the men of the PGA Tour.
 
Given a pass by the Punahou School faculty, Michelle was able to take the exams a week early. Given an exemption by the organizers of the Sony Open, Wie was able to play against the men of the PGA Tour at the age of 14. What she nearly accomplished will be discussed for a long time.
 
January was an unforgettable month for Michelle. A native of Honolulu, she played in the Mercedes Championships Pro-Am. She met Tiger Woods and Ernie Els. The following week she played a practice round with Els at the Sony. And then came the Sony itself.
 
Els was impressed by the 14-year-old before the tournament ever begin. Michelles first shot in the practice round was a 3-wood off the 10th tee that quickly got Els attention, bounding 20 yards past the South African. I mean, first swing was perfect, he said.

To be honest with you, I don't think I've ever seen a lady golfer swing the club as good as Michelle does, said Els, who was to eventually win the Sony. Annika, obviously, swings it great, but I think when Michelle gets down into her stride, she's going to be hitting the ball as long as any woman has ever hit it before.
 
She had played the Waialea course approximately 35 times leading up to the tournament, with a best score in practice of 65. Thursday Wie played her first official round against the men of the PGA Tour, and after hitting primarily to the fat part of the greens, shot a 2-over-par 72.
 
The first hole I was a little bit shaky, said Michelle. It was my first time in a PGA event. But I know what's going to happen if I go left or I know what's going to happen if I go right. All I had to do was hit it.
 
I knew what was going to happen. I felt like I was going to hit my first shot good, and after I hit my first shot, just the nervousness went away.
 
She was pleased with the result, even though she knew she would need to improve if she were to make the cut.
 
I think I played pretty good today, she said after the first round. My driver was very good. I found fairways a lot today, and I thought my irons would be a little bit closer to the hole, but they were on the green, so I was happy. I think I was putting very well today but they just wouldn't go in.
 
Jesper Parnevik, for one, was very impressed.
 
I think it's 100 times more impressive than Annika playing Colonial,' he said. But Wie was still nine shots behind leader Carlos Franco.
 
Day 2 was a different ' four shots different. And it began with a prodigious putting display. Wie made a 60-footer, a 50-footer, and one-putted 13 greens. She had only 23 total putts for the day ' championship golf by any standards, unbelievable golf for a person so young. Her putt total tied her for the tournament lead.
 
But she didnt hit the other clubs as well as she did on Thursday. She hit only eight fairways, missing six. And she missed four more fairways than she did the first day.
 
But ' she still had a chance as she came up the par-5 18th on Friday. An eagle would have done it. However, her chip wouldnt fall, and she was left to tap in for birdie. As it developed, she at first thought she had done the unthinkable ' made the cut.
 
Just one more shot and I would have made it, she wailed when it was over. It's killing me now.
 
I thought I just have to make a birdie to make it. Even par, it usually makes it. I was like, I'll be very sad if the cut was 1-under par - and it was.
 
Her two-round score of 140 was the same number as a lot of big tour names, among then Jim Furyk, Chad Campbell, Kenny Perry, Jeff Maggert and Darren Clarke. Among those whom she beat were British Open champion Todd Hamilton, Zach Johnson, Tom Pernice, Jr., Scott Hoch, Adam Scott, Notah Begay and Skip Kendall.
 
Her playing partner, Craig Bowden, was tremendously impressed with the way she conducted herself.
 
Yeah, I didn't expect her to play like she played, said Bowden. I mean, you know, she's 14 years old, and she beat a lot of guys. She missed the cut by a shot, and unfortunate because it would have really done something for her and the game of golf. What an attribute it would have been to this tournament. And she played good. She played great golf.
 
What impressed Bowden the most?
 
She just handles herself really well. I know she was nervous coming down the stretch. I felt bad for her because I know what she's going through. It's hard. It's a hard scenario. The cameras are in her face and the media guys, you guys. She handles herself incredible.
 
'She grinded, man. She got after it. She got after it. And there was no novelty in her game. There's no novelty at all in her game. She's got game. I'm impressed. I'm impressed -- I don't even care that she's a girl.'
 
Michelle was to go on to play seven LPGA tournaments and made the cut in every one. She tied for fourth in one major, the Nabisco Championship, and tied for 13th at the Women'sU.S. Open. Wie would have won $270,000 in the seven events were she not an amateur ' good for 44th place on the LPGA money list.
 
She also played in several amateur events, including taking a turn on the winning U.S. Curtis Cup squad. She lost in the second round of the U.S. Womens Amateur and made it to the finals of the womens Public Links before losing.
 
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