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A mature amateur

Teenager Michelle Wie is in position to prove she is all grown up as a player.

By BOB HARIG
Published June 25, 2005


CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. - A driver's license is in her immediate future and a lucrative professional career in golf grows ever closer. Michelle Wie would love to have those things today, a teenager who can't wait.

Will she have the patience to win the U.S. Women's Open?

Providing more evidence that she is far more than a teenage prodigy, Wie, 15, put herself in position Friday for a weekend run at the biggest tournament in women's golf.

She didn't play her best, nor was she particularly pleased with 2-over-par 73 at Cherry Hills Country Club.

But as a long, difficult day wore on, the number looked better and better. And when the day was over, there was Wie - an amateur who just finished her sophomore year in high school - sitting in second place two strokes back of unheralded Nicole Perrot of Chile.

"I feel like I'm ready," Wie said. "If I never think I'm ready, then I can never win. Always think positively."

That is what Annika Sorenstam was trying to do after shooting 4-over-par 75 and falling six behind Perrot.

Sorenstam, 34, who is bidding to win her third straight major championship in quest of her goal of completing the Grand Slam, made just one birdie and bogeyed the final three holes.

"I thought I played pretty good until the last three holes," she said. "Obviously I am disappointed with the finish, but I tried the best I could and the only thing you can do is keep on trying. Not much you can do sometimes. Right now I want to forget about this round and come back (Saturday) and hopefully it will go my way."

Sorenstam has been uncharacteristically wild off the tee, hitting just eight of 14 fairways. She also had a whopping 35 putts.

Cherry Hills, despite its length of more than 6,700 yards, still negates Sorenstam's distance advantage, as it has taken the driver out of her hands. She averaged 243 yards on the measured holes in the second round, suggesting she was using fairway woods.

Sorenstam might have to get a bit more aggressive, as she was tied for 22nd place.

Wie, however, can play it safe, as anxious as she might be otherwise. She finished her first round on Friday morning with 69, in a four-way tie for the lead.

After bogeying her first hole of the second round, she made nine straight pars before playing the last eight with two bogeys and a birdie.

Her 36-hole total of 142, even par, put her two strokes behind Perrot, 21, a former U.S. Women's Amateur runner-up who won twice last year on the developmental Futures Tour but has never seriously contended in an LPGA Tour event.

Wie was tied with Mexico's Lorena Ochoa, 23, who is coming off a win Sunday at the Wegmans Rochester tournament, her third win.

Bradenton's Paula Creamer, 18, shot 69 and was tied with Rachel Hetherington and Angelea Stanford for fourth place at 143, three strokes back. Boca Raton's Morgan Pressel, 17, shot 73 and was at 144, tied for seventh.

Playing alongside former Open champion Laura Davies and Seminole's Brittany Lincicome (148, eight back) Wie beat Davies - who did not break 80 in either round - by 23 strokes over two rounds. That number was surpassed by their difference in age: 26 years.

"She doesn't play as aggressively as I thought she would," Davies said. "Obviously the team strategy is not going for the par 5s. Personally, I'd like to see her lashing all around the course. But that's the golf fan in me."

Wie, who is 6 feet tall and can drive the ball 300 yards, would undoubtedly love to play long ball, too.

"I'd rather go to a golf course where it's about 100 yards wide and I can hit driver all the time," she said. "But you have to play smart. I think that's what I did."

An amateur has not won the Women's Open since Catherine Lacoste in 1967, but Wie, of course, is not just any amateur. She finished second to Annika Sorenstam two weeks ago at the LPGA Championship and has not finished worse than 14th in her four LPGA appearances this year.

"I feel like I have a lot of improvement to make over the next two days," she said. "My goal was to shoot consistent under-par rounds all four days. I didn't really quite achieve that, so I will just make it up (Saturday)."