Wie plays her game, knowing her time will come

7/11/2005 - Golf Michelle Wie

SILVIS, Ill. -- The question isn't if Michelle Wie will one day do the limbo under a PGA Tour cut line, but when. And when it happens -- and it will very soon -- are there going to be enough adjectives left in your Funk & Wagnall's to describe the sheer audacity of the achievement?

Wie came thisclose to making golf history Friday. Or more correctly, making more golf history.

In this little town on the Iowa/Illinois border, at a TPC at Deere Run course that measures a robust 7,193 yards, Wie needed only to play the final four holes at 1-over and she would have made the cut at the John Deere Classic. Instead, she'll spend her Saturday looking for a cineplex to see the movie "Fantastic 4."

"It was pretty killer," said Wie.

For the hip-impaired, that means Wie double-bogeyed No. 6 (she started her round on the back nine), then bogeyed No. 7 to drop her from 4-under to 1-under. With the cut line at 3-under, Wie was doomed.

Let's put this in perspective. Wie is 15 years old. I have toothbrushes older than that. She is of Generation iPod. She is fearless enough to happily accept a sponsor's exemption to the John Deere, good enough to nearly qualify for the final two rounds, and wonderfully teenage enough to say Nos. 6 and 7 "just kind of screwed me over."

It doesn't matter if you think Wie deserved an invitation to the tournament. She's here, so deal with it. It wasn't her first PGA Tour event, it won't be her last. One look at the galleries that followed her (10 deep on some holes) ... one look at the tournament sponsors (they'll need to be treated for smile cramps) ... and one look at the TV ratings (off the charts compared to the usual mopey Friday numbers), and you know Wie will be back.

But here is Wie's real gift: For 36 holes she made you forget her wallet includes nothing stronger than a learner's permit, that her golf bag features three little stuffed dolls hanging from the bag-tag loop. Wie is three years into her teens and she just managed to score better than 54 men who do this for a living.

Golf is a sport that immerses itself in statistics. But here's the only one that matters: Had Wie not gakked it on No. 6 for that double, we'd be looking at the first female to make a PGA Tour cut since Babe Didrikson Zaharias did it in 1945.

But this would have been more impressive. The Babe didn't have the Met Life blimp hovering overhead, didn't have the depth of this Tour field, and, ta-da, she wasn't still living at home.

If this were a 15-year-old boy tickling the cut line, we'd need to be treated for hyperventilation. Remember the hysteria when a 16-year-old Tiger Woods tried to make his first cut at the Los Angeles Open?

Wie's accomplishment -- or near accomplishment -- is mind boggling because of her age, her gender and the carefree way she brushes aside anyone who says she's nuts for trying this. Wie wore an oversized belt buckle with the No. 68 on the front. Why?

"Uh, 68 was the number I was trying to shoot," she said.

Wie had to settle for an even-par 71 on Friday, to go along with the 70 she shot on Thursday. But she had her moments. There was that wedge shot on No. 10 that she landed to within three feet for an eventual birdie. There was the flop shot she holed for a birdie on No. 12. There was the birdie she made from the fringe on No. 14. And you should have heard the place when her 7-iron from the fairway settled so close to the pin that you could have measured the distance with one of her earrings.

"I love you, Michelle!" someone yelled from the gallery.

After that, pars galore -- until No. 6. There's no reason to go into the ugly details. All you really need to know is that she started telling her ball to, "Sit! Sit!" as it flew into a fairway bunker. Five shots later she had her double-bogey. And on No. 7, a 226-yard par-3, Wie could only manage a disgusted, "Aw, c'mon!" as her 4-iron tee shot landed to the right of a cart path. Bogey.

"Two more holes," said her caddy, as they walked toward the eighth hole. "Two more holes."

Meanwhile, a PGA Tour official tapped Wie on the shoulder and said, "Michelle, your mom is behind you and wants to talk to you."
And there was Bo Wie at rope's edge. Michelle, steamed from the freefall, barely stopped to listen to her mother's softly spoken words.

By round's end, Wie could only manage a wan smile and small wave of the hand as she approached the final hole. She knew she had fumbled away an opportunity for two more days' worth of golf.

"It's not her time," Wie's father, B.J., said afterward. "She will get better and better."

Patience. A 15-year-old from faraway Honolulu has it. And perspective too.

"Well, even on the LPGA I made my cut on my fourth try," Wie said. "You know, my fourth [PGA Tour] try is coming up, so I'm really looking forward to that."

So am I.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.