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

6/6/2006 - Golf Michelle Wie

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

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

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

"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

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

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

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

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

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.