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'Miss Ridiculous' continues to amaze

5/8/2006 - Golf Michelle Wie

INCHEON, South Korea -- As rain washed out the third round of the SK Telecom Open, the biggest rainmaker in women's golf pondered a question.

Michelle Wie was asked, "What's the greatest thing you can do in golf?"

She barely had time to sift through her feelings about becoming the first woman in 61 years to make a cut in an international men's event, which she did the day before, but Wie had an answer ready.

"I think winning The Masters would be amazing," she said. "The craziest thing that could happen would be winning Player of the Year on the PGA Tour. Those things are ridiculous, but that's what I'm here for, to do ridiculous things."

Next up for Miss Ridiculous: a May 15 qualifier in her home state of Hawaii for the U.S. Open. If she finishes in the top four -- and she's got a decent shot -- then she's off to New Jersey and a sectional qualifier for a ticket to Winged Foot.

Ridiculous? Certainly. Likely? Not so much. But there is another ridiculous possibility that suddenly seems a bit more likely, even after her final round 2-over at the SK Telecom that landed her in a tie for 35th, 12 shots back of 21-year-old winner Prom Meesawat.

Call it the Wie Slam.

She's made a cut on the Asian Tour. She's come within a hair of a cut on the PGA Tour at last year's John Deere Classic, and she's trying it again this summer. (She will also play at the 84 Lumber Classic later in the year.) And she went bogey-bogey to barely miss the cut on the Japan Tour. She will be back at Casio in the fall for another go at that. All she needs is an invite from the European Tour and she'll have a shot at making a cut on all four major tours in one calendar year.

Granted, the Asian Tour is not the toughest of the tours. And the field in Korea did miss a few of the best players in the East. But a Wie Slam does not seem out of the question considering how close she has come and how much she has improved.

To make her next cut at John Deere, she will need to improve her iron play. She certainly drove with the big boys in Korea -- that's nothing new. Her putting has reached new levels: now she rarely misses short putts, which happened frequently at the end of last year. That leaves her approaches, which were scattershot in Sunday's final round. Wie birdied Nos. 2 and 3 to lift her score to 7-under for the tourney, but then she underclubbed at No. 4 and had to take an unplayable. Another bogey came on the next hole, after she landed a perfect drive in a sand divot. And she bogeyed the 11th when she left a 100-yard pitch short of the green. Her fourth bogey came after a 5-wood tee shot dribbled into a stream.

For the tournament, she only three-putted one hole and she hit most fairways. The difference between hanging with the men and falling behind rests in her irons. And she knows it.

"I have to practice and improve my irons," she said after Sunday's round.

At LPGA events, she can get by with power and putting. She can hit nearly all par 5s in two, or at least get up and down for a good birdie chance. Not so in men's tournaments. Stringing together pars will not make cuts or top 10s. She has to find pins. That's what PGA Tour member K.J. Choi did on Sunday, vaulting himself from 4 under to 11 under and fourth in the tournament.

Just look at the par-3 holes at the Sky 72 course outside Seoul. Wie had no birdies and two bogeys on the week. Only her chipping and sand play -- also vastly improved of late -- saved her from worse.

But for now, perspective is needed. Wie made history in her parents' native country. And as stunning as it is to consider a woman competing so well against men, it might be more impressive to think of a 16-year-old in the same realm as professional adults. The Sky 72 course sits right by a major international airport, and dozens of 747s took off and landed as Wie circled the course. Surely a handful of those planes had female pilots, but surely none had 16-year-olds at the controls.

Yes, there were other young girls on the course, but they were either caddies, fans or marshals. Even the three Korean receptionists in the clubhouse each had almost a decade on Wie.

Ridiculous.

Eric Adelson writes for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at eric.adelson@espn3.com.