Wie is blown away in 1st round at Sony


Michelle Wie, right, talks with Camilo Villegas, a former standout at the University of Florida, while leaving the 18th tee box during the first round Thursday of the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.

The Associated Press
Published: Friday, January 13, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 13, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
After Michelle Wie signed for her highest score on the PGA Tour, one that sent her to the bottom of the leaderboard Thursday at the Sony Open, she struggled to keep her voice steady while explaining what went wrong.
Three double bogeys. Two three-putts. And late in a blustery round at Waialae, one shot was so off-line that her agent held up his leather-bound notebook to keep the ball from hitting him in the head, leaving a dent in the cover.
Unable to stop the slide in gusts up to 35 mph, Wie stumbled to a 9-over 79 that left her tied with John Cook for last place with virtually no hope of becoming the first woman in 61 years to make the cut on the PGA Tour.
"Today it was like, 'Wow," she said. "It's like, 'I can't believe I'm doing this bad."'
And as the 16-year-old got up from her chair, she finally figured out what would make it all go away.
"I want some chocolate," she said. Rory Sabbatini birdied five of his last seven holes for a 5-under 65, giving him a one-shot lead over David Toms, K.J. Choi, Charles Warren and Jeff Gove.
Wie's fourth start on the PGA Tour - and third straight appearance in the Sony Open - quickly turned into her worst on a wind-swept day along the Pacific Ocean. She missed a 30-inch par putt on her third hole (No. 12), shot 42 over her first nine holes and ended her long day by missing a 6-foot birdie.
Wie, who turned pro three months ago in a hotel behind the 10th green, had never shot higher than 75 in her three previous PGA Tour events, and the 79 matched her highest score in eight tournaments against the men. At age 13, she shot 79 in the second round of the Bay Mills Open on the Canadian tour.
"It was just a combination of bad shots that turned out to be really bad, and just a lot of wasted strokes out there," Wie said. "It was not my day."
Expectations were higher than ever that Wie would get to play all four rounds, having come close at the John Deere Classic in July and at the Casio World Open in Japan.
Sabbatini and Toms said she was being too hard on herself.
Toms paid more attention to the crowd than the score. Fans were six-deep behind the 10th tee when Wie teed off, and they lined the fairways to see all 79 shots.
"If it was dead calm today, do you think she would be doing that?" Toms said. "I think she would be playing well. I think it's a hard golf course, and you have to be there on every shot."
Wie was there, ever so briefly. She blistered her opening tee shot down the middle into a strong wind, past Chris Couch and Camilo Villegas (both University of Florida standouts and Gainesville residents), both long hitters who went into the rough. Facing a 75-foot bunker shot on the par-3 11th, Wie nearly holed it, then she striped another tee shot down the middle.
But that was as good as it got. She badly pulled a 30-inch par putt on the 12th. Her pitch from deep rough came up 5 yards short of the 13th green, leading to double bogey. And after another solid drive on the 15th, she began shaking her head when her punch shot to keep the ball under the wind came up short and barely in a bunker.
Spreading her legs wide - one foot in the sand, one on the grass - she dug down and blasted out over the green into another bunker, looking skyward in utter frustration as she took another double bogey.
The highlight? "I made one birdie," she said of a 15-foot putt on No. 3 that swirled into the cup, prompting her to raise both arms in mock victory. "I was like, 'Yay, finally made a birdie.' I knew I wasn't going to get to even par, but just try as hard as I can tomorrow."
Two years ago, Wie shot 72-68 and missed the cut by one shot. Even in strong wind a year ago, she still managed a 75 in the opening round to keep people guessing whether she could make the cut. But now, even a junior at nearby Punahou School knows the odds are longer than a flight to the mainland.
"Try and shoot 61," she said. Her partners, Couch and Villegas, wrote it off as a bad day that could have happened to anyone, even a teenager with a fingernail polish and hoop earrings.
Couch played two years ago at the Sony Open and finished two shots behind Wie, prompting his buddies in Florida to give him a shirt that said, "I need to practice a Wie bit harder."
Couch fell two shots behind Wie after two holes, but returned a 71 and nothing but praise.
"She's going to be one of the best, no doubt," he said.
Villegas was more concerned with an infected hangnail on his left thumb, and told his mother Wednesday night he was 95 percent certain he would withdraw. But he soaked up the largest gallery he has seen during a round of 72.
"On No. 3 or 4, I looked around and said, 'Man, there's a lot of cameras out here,"' Villegas said. "I think she was awesome. She handled herself great."
Jim Furyk, Jeff Sluman, Chad Campbell and Peter Lonard were among those at 67. Defending champion Vijay Singh was among the late starters, making the turn in 1-over 36.
Wie headed to the range and then home to contemplate a day she would rather forget. But even in her struggles, she said she would learn. And given the alternative, a 79 on the PGA Tour was still better than a day in school.
"Exams today," Wie said. "I'd rather be here."
n LPGA: The Kraft Nabisco Championship clarified its criteria Thursday, allowing teenage sensations Michelle Wie and Morgan Pressel to play in the LPGA Tour's first major of the year.
Wie and Pressel, along with former Duke star Brittany Lang, now are eligible for the Kraft Nabisco because all of them finished in the top five at an LPGA major last year.
Wie was runner-up at the LPGA Championship and Women's British Open, and the 16-year-old finished in the top 20 at the Kraft Nabisco last year. Pressel, 17, and Lang tied for second at the U.S. Women's Open.
The tournament previously gave exemptions to players who finished in the top 20 at the Kraft or the top five in the other three majors, provided they were LPGA Tour members.
Pressel and Lang only earned their cards this year, while Wie is not expected to join until she finishes high school in Hawaii, where she is in her junior year.
"The LPGA has recommended, and we agree, that non-LPGA members who achieve the same level of success as LPGA members should be eligible to be considered for an invitation to participate," tournament director Terry Wilcox.
The Kraft Nabisco will be played March 30-April 2 at Mission Hills Country Club. Annika Sorenstam is the defending champion.

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