Wie plays like one of the guys with 70

Teen is near cut line after 1-under first round at PGA's John Deere

July 08, 2005|By Ed Sherman | Ed Sherman,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

SILVIS, Ill. - Michelle Wie already was 2-over par through eight holes yesterday when she blocked her tee shot much too far right on the ninth hole at the TPC at Deere Run. Trapped behind some trees, the predicament would have finished off many seasoned pros, let alone a 15-year-old girl playing in a PGA Tour event.

Wie, though, wouldn't concede. Despite being unable to see the green, she took a 3-iron and contemplated a shot she hadn't hit in a couple years. She cut her approach around the trees, eventually finding the green. As if that weren't enough, she made a 28-foot putt for an all-world birdie.

It was the kind of shot that staggers the imagination over what Wie is capable of doing.

Playing nearly flawless golf the rest of the way, Wie did more than just hang with the men during the first round of the John Deere Classic. A 1-under round of 70 left her in a tie for 73rd in the 154-player field, one shot off the cut line at 2-under; the top 70 and ties advance to the weekend.

Wie not only waxed her playing partners, Scott Gutschewski (71) and Nick Watney (75), she also topped veterans such as Jeff Maggert (71) and Larry Mize (72).

David Duval, the struggling former No. 1 player in the world, would love to play like Wie these days. He stumbled in with a 76.

Wie still has a way to go to contend with the leaders. A round of 63 left Hunter Mahan with a one-shot edge over J.L. Lewis.

However, Mahan's fine play was a mere afterthought on a day dominated by Wie's presence in the field. Most of the gallery followed her attempt to play against some of the best men in the world.

The fans seemed thrilled in watching Wie make five birdies. Wie, though, wasn't pleased with four bogeys on the front 9.

"In a way, [I'm] happy and in a way not happy," Wie said. "I mean, of course I want to shoot a lower score, but I'm really happy the way it turned out."

To put her round in perspective, Tiger Woods shot 72-75 in missing the cut in the 1992 Los Angeles Open during his PGA Tour debut at age 16. He played seven PGA Tour tournaments before making his first cut as a 19-year-old at the 1995 Masters.

This is Wie's third PGA Tour event; twice she missed the cut in the Sony Open. Yet she goes into today with a chance to make the cut.

When you factor in that she is a high school girl playing against men, what she did yesterday becomes even more overwhelming to comprehend.

"It's kind of mind-boggling," Watney said. "When I was 15, I didn't look like that. I mean, she's a phenom."

Bowden, who had a 65 yesterday, saw her talent during a practice round earlier this week.

"I don't know if you guys realize it, but she's going to be the next Tiger Woods of the LPGA Tour," Craig Bowden said. "I couldn't do anything at 15 years old. My dad tried to get me up more often than not. She has a lot of game."

On the 557-yard par 5 17th, she reached the green in two with a 3-wood and made a two-putt birdie.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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