Wie Finds the Going Rough at John Deere Classic

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The New York Sun

SILVIS, Ill. — After yet another errant shot, Michelle Wie groaned and tugged her baseball hat down over her eyes. Nice try. There was no escaping the ugliness on her scorecard, though.

Trying for a fifth time to become the first woman since 1945 to make a cut in a PGA Tour event, the 16-year-old instead found trouble virtually everywhere she turned yesterday in the first round of the John Deere Classic. In the sand. In the water. In the weeds. And in the woods — several times.

“It was very uncharacteristic,” she said. “Considering that I had the water hazard penalties, considering that I had to call unplayable, considering that I hit my driver like 50 yards right, I felt like I played really well … I have a lot of confidence going into tomorrow.”

She’ll need it.

With a 6-over 77, Wie was 13 strokes off the lead and appears headed for another early trip home. The low 70 and ties will make the cut after the second round today and, with half of the field still on the course, 74 players were at 1-under or better.

J.P. Hayes, John Senden, and local favorite Zach Johnson were tied for the early lead at 7-under 64. Defending champion Sean O’Hair, Jason Gore, and Camilo Villegas were among those with afternoon tee times.

“I didn’t make the cut shooting 1-under on the first (day), so maybe shooting 6-over might do it,” said Wie, who missed the cut at last year’s Deere Classic despite shooting a 1-under the first day.

This is Wie’s fifth visit to the PGA Tour, where she is trying to become the first woman since Babe Zaharias in 1945 to make the cut. And if ever there was a time the teen phenom was going to do it, this appeared to be it.

She missed the cut at last year’s Deere Classic by two strokes, blowing her chance at history with two bad holes late in the second round. A year older and wiser, she arrived playing the best golf of he career. In the first three LPGA Tour majors, she’s finished a combined five shots out of the lead.

She’d already made the cut at one men’s event, too, finishing 12 shots off the lead in the Asian Tour’s SK Telecom Open.

But Wie got off to a rough start yesterday and never quite got back on track. She hit seven of 14 fairways and made six of 18 greens, only one in the first nine. She took four drops, three in the first five holes.

“When I was like, 12, maybe,” Wie said when asked the last time she took four penalty strokes.

Heavy fog delayed the start of the first round by 2 hours and 10 minutes, and about 2,000 fans were lining the 10th hole — her first — by the time Wie and her partners arrived. She was greeted with loud applause, and she responded with an easy smile and wave.

She wasn’t smiling on the 11th tee, when bugs hovered as she addressed her ball. She stepped back five times, throwing her head back in frustration the final time.

“I would like to say it didn’t, but it bothered me a little bit,” she said.”Bugs on me, I hate bugs, and I was starting to get a little aggravated like the fifth time I stepped out. I was a little aggravated, but I felt like I shook it off.”

Maybe. But she pushed her tee shot so far right it was lost in a thicket of trees and she had to take a drop. She wound up with a double-bogey after her 20-foot uphill putt stopped at the edge of the cup.

Next up was the par-3 12th, another easy birdie hole. But once again, her tee shot sailed to the right, prompting Wie to yell, “Oh, no! You’ve got to be kidding me!”

Nope. That ball disappeared into trees, too, forcing her to take another drop from about 90 yards out. But she saved a bogey, running that shot 4 feet past the hole and making the putt.

She rebounded with a 12-footer for birdie on 13, and smiled when 16-year-old Spencer Conlin yelled, “Michelle, you’re my hero!” as she walked off the green.

“Dude, look at her,” Conlin said. “She’s out here playing with men in a PGA tournament. And she’s half the age of them.”

But her recovery was short-lived. Another bad drive on 14 landed in deep weeds, and she had to take another drop, her third.

Wie finally got a break on the par-3 16th, chipping in from a valley about 20 yards behind and to the right of the pin. The crowd whooped and cheered, and a relieved-looking Wie exchanged a fist bump with her caddie.

“That’s why I play, to have those moments,” Wie said. “It’s so wonderful, you can’t really put it in words.You just feel really good. That’s why I’m doing this, to feel those moments.”

Those moments were short-lived yesterday, though. Her tee shot on the par-5 17th hit one tree and then another, landing in deep rough about 10 yards into the gallery. She tried to punch out, but the ball only moved about 40 yards. When she finally did get on the green, she left a 15-foot par putt short.

After a bogey on no. 1 and another drop on no. 2, Wie had a chance to make up ground. One birdie putt hit the edge of the cup and banged out. Another rolled 3 feet by, and she left yet another 4 feet short.

“I feel like I have a really good round in me,” she said. “I feel like if I hit the fairways more, if I was in the fairway I could have a shot a lot under par. I felt like my irons are really good. My putting feels really good and I really feel like I can do it.”

The New York Sun

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