<
>

Wie may be biggest wiz kid since Tiger Woods

1/21/2003

HONOLULU -- The moment was Hoganesque, although it had more
to do with curiosity than perfection.

Michelle Wie was on the practice range at Waialae Country Club
before the Pro-Junior Golf Challenge at the Sony Open. She started
with her wedges and worked her way through the bag until she pulled
out a driver.

That's when PGA Tour players -- five on each side of her --
stopped what they were doing to watch. With her long, fluid swing,
the Hawaiian teenager cracked one drive after another toward the
back end of the range, some of them approaching 300 yards.

Why all the interest?

Wie is only 13, and she might be the biggest youth sensation in
golf since a kid name Tiger Woods appeared on the ''Mike Douglas
Show'' at age 2.

The pros murmured after each drive struck by the eighth-grader,
who is nearly 6 feet.

''Just missed it a hair -- 280,'' Jerry Kelly said sarcastically
after one shot.

Wie already is one of the biggest sports celebrities in Hawaii.
One day after playing in the pro-am at the Mercedes Championships
with Shigeki Maruyama, she was stopped for autographs at Kapalua,
and one marshal congratulated her for the drive she hit on No. 5.

''You watch her swing and say, 'That's normal.' Then you realize
that she's only 13 and that's ... that's unbelievable,'' said Vijay
Singh, who played in Wie's group during the Pro-Junior event. ''She
plays like an 18-year-old. She's going to be a star.''

Asked if Wie drove it past him, Singh furrowed his brows and
smiled.

''She's not that long,'' he said. ''And I'm not that bad.''

Still, the afternoon led to some comical exchanges, led by Paul
Azinger. When they reached the 12th hole at Waialae, Azinger laid
down the challenge.

''All right, Michelle, I'm going to give you a target. I'm going
to roast this one,'' Azinger said to her.

He piped his drive long and straight. Wie pulled her drive into
the rough, stopping about 40 yards short of Azinger's ball. He
looked over at Singh and Kelly, sticking out his chest in mock
triumph.

''I called her out,'' he said, and all three of them broke out
laughing at the absurdity of a former PGA champion beating up on a
13-year-old girl.

Wie shot 73 from the championship ties at Pearl Country Club
while trying to Monday qualify for the Sony Open, six strokes short
of the playoff. Andy Miller won the qualifier with a 65 and said,
''There's a lot of guys who got beat by a 13-year-old girl.''

It might not be the only time that happens.

Along with trying to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open, Women's
Amateur and U.S. Junior Girls Championship, Wie said she will enter
the U.S. Amateur Public Links, which offers an exemption to the
Masters for the winner.