Teen Wie shoots 72 in PGA's Sony Open

As center of attention, she shows off game, poise


January 16, 2004|By Thomas Bonk | Thomas Bonk,LOS ANGELES TIMES

HONOLULU - The worst thing that happened to Michelle Wie wasn't the 2-over 72 she shot yesterday in the first round of the Sony Open.

No, the worst thing was Wednesday afternoon's storm that knocked out the electricity at her house and meant she couldn't watch television.

Possibly missing the cut at a PGA Tour event is one thing, but don't mess with a 14-year-old's television time.

Wie, 14, believed to be the youngest player ever in a PGA Tour event, didn't blow away the field, but she certainly caused a stir at Waialae Country Club just by showing up.

Afterward, Wie said she had learned something.

"I learned that I can play here," she said. "I think I could play here, but I have to work harder on my game to be in the winner's circle. I never felt like I was out of place."

Carlos Franco took the lead in the $4.8 million tournament after he opened with a 7-under 63. His reward was to go virtually unnoticed on a day that belonged to a ninth-grader.

Wie had five bogeys and two birdies, and if she could have coaxed a few more putts to drop, her chances of making the cut would look a lot better.

Wie averaged a respectable 281.8 yards off the tee, and she hit 11 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens. But she needed 31 putts, mainly because she never consistently put the ball close to the hole.

Craig Bowden, who played in a group with Wie and Kevin Hayashi, admitted he was impressed.

"She hits it long enough to play any golf course," Bowden said. "Other than a few putts that could have gone in, she played an excellent round. If she plays like she did today and makes a few more putts, she has an opportunity to make the cut."

There is room for discussion on the subject of whether Wie's groundbreaking appearance here is a welcome trend, too trendy, or a problem, but neither her play nor her behavior expressed anything other than star-quality.

At 9 a.m., when Wie began her round at the 10th tee, proof of her popularity was very much in evidence. Spectators lined up for 30 yards down the fairway and stood four-deep behind a hedge at the back of the tee.

There were eight television mini-cameras, two dozen still photographers and the same number of reporters watching as Wie swung a 3-wood and sent the ball down the middle of the fairway.

"After I hit my first shot, the nervousness just went away," she said.

Wie's task today is to post a score that is among the lowest 70 players, which would mean she would make the cut. Last year, the cut was at even-par 140, so Wie figured that she needs at least a 68 to get in, maybe lower.

"I think I can do it because I think I can shoot under par," she said.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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