Wie's shots leave heads shaking as she wins 2

3 more victories in Ohio would earn Masters berth

July 15, 2005|By Erik Boland | Erik Boland,NEWSDAY

LEBANON, Ohio - It was just the third shot of a long day, but telling nonetheless.

A pitching wedge to the green on the long, par-5 opening hole left a ball mark so close to the flag it nearly ruined the integrity of the cup. Michelle Wie tapped in the ensuing 3 1/2 -footer for birdie in her morning match yesterday in the 80th U.S. Amateur Public Links at Shaker Run Golf Club. She was on her way.

She routed C.D. Hockersmith, 6 and 5, in her morning match, then beat Jim Renner, 3 and 1, in the afternoon to advance to the quarterfinals.

She is three steps away from a Masters invitation that tournament chairman Hootie Johnson said would be offered should Wie, 15, win. Wie, the No. 55 seed, will play 20-year-old Clay Ogden, seeded 63rd, at 7:50 a.m. today. A victory would put Wie in a 12:45 p.m. semifinal.

"I'm obviously thinking about that," Wie said of the Masters berth that has gone to the Public Links winner since 1989. "But I'm just taking it one match at a time."

What each of her matches has shown is that Wie's opponents are intimidated. Intimidated by the huge, pro-Wie galleries that yell, "Go Michelle!" after every shot; intimidated by the horde of media - ESPN arrived Wednesday and scores of newspapers started sending reporters after Wie qualified for match play - but mostly intimidated by a 15-year-old hitting shots most of them, even the top collegians, could only wish they'd hit.

Hockersmith just shook his head after Wie's shot on the 599-yard first hole in the morning. Renner, this year's NAIA individual champion from Johnson and Wales University in Miami, raved about two Wie shots in the afternoon.

The first came on the 475-yard, par-4 13th. Wie was 1 up in the match and Renner, a long hitter who consistently outdrove his opponent, stood 80 yards closer after his drive.

Wie, from a divot, had 220 yards to the hole. She sent a low screamer with a 3-iron that rolled down a slope to the green and stopped pin high, 12 feet away.

The rattled Renner missed the green to the right, chipped close, but watched Wie connect with her birdie putt to go 2 up.

"That's not a shot a typical 15-year-old makes from that distance," Renner said. "There's not that many guys out there in this tournament who can hit that shot. It's not often you're intimidated by a 15-year-old, but I'm seeing stuff out here ... "

Renner didn't need to continue. Perhaps he was still thinking of the coup de grace Wie administered two holes later.

Still 2 down, Renner hit his approach on the 410-yard 15th to four feet. Wie missed the green to the left and her ball rested, pin high, in a clump of rough 20 feet away.

Said Wie: "Before I hit that shot, my caddie [Greg Johnston, on loan from LPGA pro Julie Inkster] said, `We're due to chip one in.' "

Indeed, Wie holed the shot, hitting a wedge onto the slope and watching it roll into the cup. The gallery of more than 600 whooped, Wie pumped her right fist and Renner dropped his head. He holed his putt, but it was only good for a half on the hole.

Wie closed out the match with a birdie on 17.

"I'm very glad to be able to survive through the matches today," Wie said. "Hopefully, I'll keep playing better."

Wie is an old hand now at dealing with the media, but, like any 15-year-old, can't always find the right word.

Yesterday, in assessing a two-match day in humid conditions, she inadvertently substituted a word for "grueling."

"It was really gruesome out there," Wie said.

Only for her opponents.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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