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Wie finishes 14 over, misses cut at 84 Lumber

9/15/2006 - Golf Michelle Wie

FARMINGTON, Pa. -- She was playing in the 84 Lumber Classic and, for a while Friday, it looked as if Michelle Wie might shoot an 84.

Wie's drives constantly landed short of the big-hitting pros, forcing her to use long irons on her second shots when the men were pulling out 7-irons. Her putts wouldn't drop, either, during a second-round 81 -- even those routine 4- to 6-footers most on tour can sink by the dozens.

She keeps talking a good game when opposing the guys, but keeps playing a mediocre one. No wonder some of the PGA Tour players, polite and patient with her until now, are questioning what she's doing playing against men when she doesn't have the game for it. At least not yet.

"She's certainly not scaring anybody around here," said Ryder Cup team member Scott Verplank, who also missed the cut. "To be honest, I didn't even know she was here."

Wie, who turns 17 next month, tried and failed for a sixth time in her short career to make the cut in PGA Tour event, something no woman has done since Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1945. But while Wie came close a couple of times, she looked badly out of place Friday during her second last-place finish in two weeks against men.

Her rounds of 77 and 81 left her 13 shots away from making the
cut and a whopping 23 shots behind co-leaders Ryan Moore and
Ben Curtis, who were at 9-under 135. That's a deficit normally
associated with a club pro who wrangles an exemption to go against
the big names.

"I'm not going to give up," Wie said. "I feel like I'm progressing. I'm getting better, even though my score didn't show it."

But why keep doing it when she's not even coming close? She also
finished last a week ago in the European Masters, with scores of 77
and 78. She had all of one birdie in 72 holes the last two weeks,
that coming Friday on the par-4 16th during a round that included a
double bogey and eight bogeys.

"I just had a bad two weeks, that's it. No more, no less," she
said. "I feel like I'm getting better and better. My game is
progressing -- my shots are actually going to the fairway now. My
shots are feeling solid."

However, it appears she is judging her game against only her own
performances, not those of the men she aspires to emulate. As
Verplank pointed out Friday, not even Tiger Woods was regularly
trying to beat the men when he was 16.

"Obviously, she's some sort of phenom being a 16-year-old girl
who can play like she can, but honestly there's not a male or
female in the world who can compete out here at that age,"
Verplank said. "I'm sure there are some very fine 16-year-old boys
who can play, but it would be awful hard for them to come out here
and make a scratch.

"If I was her adviser, I would tell her to go kick all the
ladies' tails around for about four years and if she wants to try
again when she's 20, 21 and grown up more, and maybe a better
player, come on back."

That kind of talk doesn't discourage Wie, who promises to keep
trying to beat the men -- as long, of course, as she gets the three
or so sponsors' exemptions a year she needs to compete. She got
into the 84 Lumber field because of her close friendship with the
lumber chain's founder, Joe Hardy, and her image was splashed on
virtually every piece of promotional material distributed by the
tournament.

She won't return to the 84 next year, as the tournament will
fold after this weekend.

Despite being uncommonly mature for her age, she occasionally
flashes the naivete of youth. She talks about making an adjustment
here, a tweak there, when it seems evident that almost every part
of her game needs upgrading to compete against the world's best
male golfers.

"I definitely look forward to the next time and just kind of
assess what went wrong, what happened," she said. "I have a clear
idea of what I have to work on and what I have to do to get better.
I'm definitely going to hit the gym."

Wie, who returns to being a Hawaiian high school senior next
week, insists she's not being pushed to keep playing against men by
her father, swing coach David Leadbetter or her advisers.

"It's kind of like a teamwork kind of thing," she said. "We
all put in our ideas, we all put in our opinions. But it all comes
down to me. I have the final say on everything."

For now, she says this experiment will go on.

"I definitely want to keep playing out here and competing with
them," she said. "I'm really enjoying it. Obviously, everyone
knows my ultimate goal is to play in the Masters. I like playing
out here, making cuts -- start making cuts -- start getting Top 10s.
I mean, who knows what's going to happen?"

Moore's 5-under 67 matched the low round on a cloudy, cool day.
Sean O'Hair, Charles Howell III and first-round leader Nicholas
Thompson were two shots back, and five others were three back.

Three of the five Ryder Cup players made the cut: Chris DiMarco,
David Toms and Brett Wetterich. Verplank and Chad Campbell did not.

Returning champion Jason Gore made the cut but was eight off the
lead.