Originally created 01/17/04

A great performance comes up one shot short



HONOLULU -- This is one time a 14-year-old girl dreads having the weekend off.

Michelle Wie battled to the very end Friday, making two birdies on her final three holes for a 2-under 68 that left her one shot short of making the cut in the Sony Open.

"I cannot believe it," Wie said, exasperated that her even-par 140 wasn't enough to play on the weekend.

Maybe another time - like, soon.

The youngest player in the PGA Tour record books, Wie posted the lowest score ever by a female competing against the men. Se Ri Pak had a 3-under 69 last year in the third round of the SBS Super Tournament on the Korean PGA Tour, where she tied for 10th.

Wie didn't realize the cut was at 1-under 139 until she finished her round.

"I thought I just had to make birdie," she said. "They said it was 139, and I added 70 and 70 together and was like, 'Oh, no. This is NOT happening."'

Her round was about as good as she could have shot. Wie saved par on eight holes, and two of her birdies Friday at Waialae Country Club were from at least 50 feet.

Still, it left a strong field at the Sony Open in awe.

"It's pretty incredible," former Sony Open winner Jerry Kelly said. "She's opening the door."

She tied for 80th, and finished ahead of 47 others.

Wie plans to play six LPGA Tour events this year - she made the cut in six out of seven last year, two of them majors. When asked if she would like another sponsor's exemption to the Sony Open, the teenager in her came out.

"What do you think?" she said with a catty smile.

Steve Allan of Australia shot an 8-under 62, and at 129 held a one-stroke lead over Harrison Frazar (63) going into a weekend that won't have nearly the crowd or the excitement.

Defending champion Ernie Els (64) was another stroke back at 9-under 131. He spent the afternoon in his hotel room watching Wie, with whom he played a practice round Tuesday.

Craig Bowden shot 64 playing with Wie, a round only his wife will remember.

Wie returns to the ninth grade at nearby Punahou School, but she left quite an impression - not only with her 68, but the strong finishing kick.

Despite a good chip to save par on No. 15, Wie had to play the final three holes in 3 under to make the cut.

She didn't go down without a fight.

With the sun setting over Diamond Head, Wie belted her longest drive of the week, 311 yards down the middle. Her approach stopped 15 feet beyond the cup, and she holed it for her sixth birdie of the week.

She pulled her tee shot on the 189-yard 17th, the ball bouncing off the grandstand into the rough about 100 feet from the flag. Fighting to the end, she pitched to 4 feet and saved par for the eighth time in the round.

Wie needed an eagle on the final hole to make the cut, and she gave herself a chance with another big drive, leaving herself 252 yards to the hole.

She got her 5-wood a little too much in the air and it landed softly in front of the green, rolling into the first cut of rough. With a packed grandstand quietly watching, her chip for eagle headed to the hole and turned away, running about 4 feet by to end her hopes of making the cut.

What did she learn from the week?

"I learned what the PGA does - they made the sand a lot fluffier and the greens a lot faster," Wie said.

It still wasn't enough to make a 14-year-old girl play like one.

Nearly 5,000 people - a larger crowd than the Sony Open usually gets for the final pairing Sunday - followed her around Waialae, and PGA Tour players stopped on the range to watch when she came up the ninth hole.

"I played with her on Tuesday, and she wasn't feeling well and wasn't playing well," Paul Azinger said as Wie played the back nine. "I thought she'd get waxed out here, but she's proving me wrong. I'd like to see her make a few birdies and make the cut."

Wie was trying to become the first female in 59 years to make the 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event.

Babe Zaharias did it at the 1945 Los Angeles Open, then shot 76 and failed to qualify for the final round. No other women played on the PGA Tour until Annika Sorenstam last year at the Colonial.

Sorenstam had rounds of 71-74 to miss the cut by four shots. Connecticut club pro Suzy Whaley qualified for the Greater Hartford Open last year, but missed the cut by 13 shots.

This one came down to the very last hole, although it's difficult to compare Wie with Sorenstam.

Sorenstam had enormous pressure. She was the first woman in 58 years on the PGA Tour, and faced intense scrutiny for three months leading to her opening tee shot. Plus, Sorenstam already was established as the best player of her generation, and expectations were high.

Still, Waialae (7,060 yards) and Colonial (7,080 yards) are similar in length.

The Sony Open had a stronger field, featuring Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Davis Love III among six of the top eight players in the world.

And remember, Wie is in the ninth grade.

"If she makes it, that will be a lifetime achievement on this tour," Els said after he finished his round.

She was one shot away.

As fans streamed out of Waialae, they ran to the scoreboard to see if she made the cut, then slumped their shoulders and quietly filed out the gates.