Main attraction Wie 5 back at men's event

Golf

November 25, 2005

Nervous at the start but encouraged by a couple of late birdies, Michelle Wie was five strokes off the lead in a men's tournament in Kochi, Japan, yesterday and optimistic about making the cut.

The 16-year-old Hawaiian was followed by huge galleries during her opening round of 1-over-par 73 at the Casio World Open on the Japan Golf Tour.

She had an uneven beginning with three bogeys on the Kochi Kuroshio Country Club course. Wie, who teed off from the 10th hole, regrouped with birdies on the sixth and seventh holes.

"Coming back like that will give me confidence for tomorrow," she said. "It's good to know I can do that even when I'm not playing that well."

Two Japanese players, Toshimitsu Izawa and Yoshiaki Kimura, shared the lead at 68.

Wie, only the second woman to play in a Japanese men's event, clearly was the big draw. Defending champion David Smail, by contrast, was followed by only a handful of spectators.

The $1.7 million tournament, the next-to-last event on the Japanese men's tour, is Wie's first since she was disqualified last month in her professional debut.

"I felt a little nervous off the tee," Wie said. "But being nervous like that can be a good thing."

Wie is making her sixth start in a men's professional tournament. She failed to make the cut in three PGA Tour starts, a Nationwide Tour event and a Canadian Tour event. This is her first tournament in Japan.

"I wanted to be a little higher," she said. "But considering how I struggled in the middle, I'm pretty happy with the round I had. Hopefully, I can come back tomorrow and play a better round."

Sophie Gustafson missed the cut in the 2003 Casio tournament, which was the only other time a female player appeared in a top Japanese men's tour event.

Wie said she will have to play better tomorrow to make the cut.

"Hopefully, I can come back tomorrow and play better," she said. "If I can make a couple of more putts and keep hitting the fairways I should be fine."

Australian Open -- Australia's Robert Allenby overcame a hand injury and shot a course-record 9-under 63 for a one-stroke lead after the first round in Fingal, Australia. Allenby, who said inflammation in his right hand was so bad four days ago that he could hardly pick up a club, finished just minutes after 21-year-old American Spencer Levin finished with an 8-under 64. Levin was in second place at Moonah Links, followed by Australia's Scott Laycott at 7-under. Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy were tied for fourth a stroke back. Two-time winner Aaron Baddeley and Stuart Appleby both had 70s and a share of 16th place at 2-under. Allenby, the 1994 Australian Open champion, had 10 birdies and a bogey and said he hadn't putted better in a decade.

PGA European China Open -- France's Francois Delamontagne and Thailand's Chawalit Plaphol shot identical opening rounds to share the lead in Shenzhen, China. Delamontagne and Plaphol each finished with a 7-under 65 at Shenzhen Golf Course.

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