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Wie to play in U.S. Women's Open, Euro tour event

5/15/2006 - Golf Michelle Wie

NEWPORT, R.I. -- Michelle Wie had a busy day. And now she has a busy summer ahead of her.

The 16-year-old phenom received another exemption to the U.S.
Women's Open and accepted her first exemption to a European tour
men's event Monday, the same day she shot an even-par 72 to win a
local qualifier in Hawaii for the men's U.S. Open.

Wie and two other players advanced to sectional play next month,
with Wie saying she will play in the June 5 36-hole sectional at
Canoe Brook in Summit, N.J. The USGA believes she's the first woman
to get through local qualifying for the U.S. Open.

The special exemption to the U.S. Women's Open was hardly a
surprise.

USGA women's tournament chairman Marcia Luigs said the
exemptions are given to players who would be eligible to play in a
tournament if not for some external reason. Along with Wie, a
special exemption was given to Kelly Robbins, who had consecutive
top-three finishes in the Women's Open but missed last year's with
a back injury.

"Michelle's case was more cut-and-dried, when you looked at the
numbers,'' Luigs said. "If she had been on the LPGA Tour, she
would have been exempt. Even though she is a professional and has
won enough money to have an exemption, it's not on the LPGA money
list.''

Although Wie is not an LPGA Tour member, she would have ranked
12th on the official money list last year and would be within the
top 35 in 2006 -- and eligible for the tournament at the Newport
Country Club -- after just two events this year.

Wie finished third in the Fields Open this year and tied for
third in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, both times missing a
playoff by one shot. She has earned $181,449, which would place her
16th on the money list.

"I think she clearly has enough experience to play,'' defending
Women's Open champion Birdie Kim said Monday at the Newport Country
Club. "I think even if she goes through qualifying, she'd make it
through.''

Luigs said exemptions are not given just to draw name players to
an event.

"We don't award special exemptions to help a site sell tickets.
That's never a consideration,'' she said. "But we're thrilled with
the outcome.''

Wie also will play Sept. 7-10 in the Omega European Masters in
Switzerland, her first time competing on the European tour. Wie has
competed eight times against the men on five tours, making the cut
for the first time May 5 in the SK Telecom Open in South Korea.

"Michelle Wie has demonstrated her outstanding golfing skills
to a global audience as both an amateur and now as a professional,
and we look forward to welcoming her to the Omega European
Masters,'' said George O'Grady, executive director of the European
tour.

Wie, who has an endorsement contract with Omega, will be the
second woman to compete on the European tour. Laura Davies finished
next to last in ANZ Championship in Australia two years ago.

The European invitation gives Wie, who is finishing her junior
year of high school in Honolulu, a global schedule against men and
women. Her 2006 schedule now includes 14 tournaments -- eight on the
LPGA, three on the PGA Tour and one each on the Asian and European
tours and Japanese PGA Tour.

Wie was tied for the lead going into the final round of the U.S.
Women's Open last year at Cherry Hills, but crashed to an 82 and
wound up tied for 23rd. The top 15 and ties are exempt the
following year, meaning she either needed a special exemption or
would have had to go through 36-hole qualifying.

Her second special exemption -- Wie also received one to the
Women's Open in 2004 -- is sure to rankle some women. Morgan
Pressel, who tied for second at Cherry Hills, said this year she
felt Wie should have to qualify like any other player.

"I don't see why she shouldn't, or why should be afraid, or
expect an exemption,'' Pressel said.

Wie has not missed the cut on the LPGA Tour since she was 13 in
2003, and she has five top fives in the majors, including a
runner-up finish in the LPGA Championship and a tie for third in
the Women's British Open last year.

Robbins lost in a three-way playoff in 2003 and finished third
in 2004, but withdrew from the Women's Open last year with a back
injury that kept her out most of the season.