Shaky putter costs Wie a shot at U.S. Open

Updated: June 6, 2006, 4:43 PM ET
Associated Press

SUMMIT, N.J. -- Michelle Wie tugged her cap over her face when a 3-foot par putt skimmed over the right edge of the cup, and the 3,500 fans who thought they might witness history gasped and groaned.

Gene Wojciechowski's take
Gene Wojciechowski
The next chowderhead who says Michelle Wie doesn't "belong" within a par 5 of men's golf gets to catch one of her drives with their teeth. And while waiting for oral surgery, they also should be required to watch all 36 holes of Wie's U.S. Open sectional qualifying, where she came tantalizingly close to making golf history Monday.

• For more of Gene Wojciechowski's analysis, Click here.

For nearly 10 hours Monday at Canoe Brook, in an electric atmosphere that at times felt like a U.S. Open, Wie tantalized an overflow crowd, raising their hopes that a 16-year-old girl could join Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot in two weeks for the toughest test in golf.

But it won't be this year.

That putt was the start of three straight bogeys, sending Wie to a 3-over 75 in her second round of U.S. Open qualifying. She tied for 59th at 1-over 143, five shots short of even having a chance for the 18th and final spot in the 153-player field.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed I didn't make it," she said. "I'm satisfied with the way I tried. I played my hardest out there."

She won over the crowd, and even the two men with whom she played.

"She's very, very good. And she's only bloody 16," said Long Island club pro Rick Hartmann, who finished at 4-over 146. "You guys are going to be writing about her for a long time."

Wie played well enough to make the cut, but that wasn't what she was playing for.

That required more than she had.

She missed six birdie putts inside 12 feet in the morning on the easier South course and still shot 2-under 68, holing a 60-foot chip for birdie on her final hole that set off a frenzy for those lucky enough to watch. Interest was so high that Canoe Brook closed the gates shortly before lunch because club officials didn't think it could handle so many people.

When she saved par with a tricky, 5-foot putt on her ninth hole in the afternoon, Wie still was at 2 under and needed two birdies to have a shot at going to Winged Foot. But the cheers that carried her along the tree-lined fairways soon turned into sympathetic applause.

The next stop for Wie is a major -- against women.

She headed south to Bulle Rock near Baltimore for the LPGA Championship, where she was runner-up a year ago and will be one of the favorites. Her parents said she will throw out the first pitch Tuesday night when the Baltimore Orioles play Toronto. The fans at Camden Yards won't see the first woman in the U.S. Open, only one who tried.

"I'm very proud of her," said her father, B.J. Wie. "A little disappointed, but very proud. I think Michelle demonstrated that it's possible for a woman to play in a men's major."

Replied his only child, "I think finally my dad said something right."

"Hopefully, this just shows or motivates people to do what they want to do," Wie said. "I feel a lot more motivated after today."

The putts that kept her from a low round in the morning doomed her chances in the afternoon.

AP PhotoMichelle Wie hit the ball well off the tee in her first qualifying round -- but her putter cost her valuable strokes in the second 18.

After hitting a fan in the leg with her tee shot on the fourth, she was 25 feet away for birdie and ran the putt 3 feet by. Wie missed the par putt for only her second bogey of the day.

She three-putted the next hole for bogey, too, a slippery 25-foot putt that she ran a few feet by and missed coming back. Then on the 442-yard sixth hole, she again missed the fairway, chipped across into more rough, and when she finally reached the green, Wie had to make a 5-foot putt to escape with bogey.

"I felt like I was playing very well, but my score didn't show it as much as I wanted to," she said. "I was hitting my putts very solid. I guess the ball was afraid of heights or something."

The string of bogeys ended her hopes, and a crowd that had been so electric under mostly gray skies turned somber as the sun broke through the clouds, casting long shadows across the fairway.

Mark Brooks wondered if it was just as well. Winged Foot is one of the most daunting U.S. Open courses, with severe greens, thick rough and deep bunkers.

"I don't think it would be a good experience unless you've really been whipped by a golf course," he said. "I don't think Tiger Woods was ready for a U.S. Open when he was 16."

Brett Quigley set the course record on the South with a 7-under 63 and was the medalist at 11-under 131.

"Somebody asked me if I was worried she was going to beat me," he said. "I said, 'I don't care if she beats me as long as I get in.'"

Wie has played eight tournaments against men, making the cut for the first time last month at the SK Telecom Open in South Korea on the Asian Tour.

This was the second time she captivated fans with an improbable bid to play in a men's major. Last summer, she reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Public Links, with the winner getting an invitation to the Masters.

The highlight of her day came on the 18th hole in the morning.

Her tee shot into the right rough came within 15 feet of going into the water, and she hit her approach into the rough atop a bunker, grass so thick that were tiny mushrooms around the ball.

"I was hacking through the rough. I was like, 'Oh, God, get your bogey and get out of here,"' she said.

Her chip came out strong, smacked into the pin and dropped for an unlikely birdie, not only giving her a 68, but marking the first time she played bogey-free when competing against men. She was tied for 13th going into the afternoon, and Canoe Brook was buzzing.

Throughout the day, Wiemania reached another level.

Sectional qualifiers typically draw a few hundred people, most of those family or friends. The crowd tagging along after Wie was about the same size as the one watching Mickelson play in the Memorial on Sunday.

And it caused a few problems, as expected.

As she made her way to the 10th tee on the North course to start her second round, hundreds of people followed behind her and caused players on the 12th green to back off their shots, one caddie raising his arms in disgust.

Quigley was on an adjacent hole when Wie made birdie on the 17th in the afternoon.

"I was getting ready to tee off and I heard people going wild through the woods," Quigley said. "I figured she'd made a birdie. It was great to see people so energized."

But this wasn't a typical U.S. Open qualifier. And Wie pledged that it won't be her last.

"I'm not going to quit after this," Wie said. "I don't see the point in that."

Meanwhile, two other Hawaii golfers, Tadd Fujikawa and Dean Wilson, qualified for the U.S. Open.

Fujikawa, 15, who just finished his freshman year at Moanalua High School, beat out nine other golfers at the sectional qualifier at Poipu Bay Golf Club on Kauai. Wilson earned a spot at the Ohio sectional qualifier at Winged Foot.

SOUTH COURSE (8:35 a.m. Tee Time, Hole One).
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Out 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 In Total
Yardage 470 394 363 156 411 485 185 573 372 3,409 184 546 391 405 198 470 428 199 417 3,216 6,625
Par 4 4 4 3 4 5 3 5 4 36 3 5 4 4 3 4 4 3 4 34 70
Michelle Wie 4 4 4 3 4 4 3 5 4 35 3 5 4 4 3 4 4 3 3 33 68
Overall -1 -1 -2

NORTH COURSE (2:20 p.m. Tee Time, Hole 10).
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Out 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 In Total
Yardage 399 572 390 362 173 442 212 528 417 3,495 374 173 538 391 226 382 431 455 601 3,571 7,066
Par 4 5 4 4 3 4 3 5 4 36 4 3 5 4 3 4 4 4 5 36 72
Michelle Wie 4 5 4 5 4 5 3 5 4 39 5 3 5 4 3 4 4 3 5 36 75
Overall +3 E +3


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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