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Wie ready to take on the men in Hawaii

At this week's Hawaiian Open, Michelle Wie will become the third woman in less than a year to play alongside the men in a PGA Tour event when she makes her debut at Waialae Country Club.

Wie, a hugely talented 14-year-old amateur who can power the ball more than 300 yards, follows in the footsteps of world number one Annika Sorenstam of Sweden and LPGA Tour regular Suzy Whaley.

However the 1.83-metre Hawaiian teenager is comfortably the youngest of the three and is viewed by many as the most likely female to make the cut in a men's event.

She is already being hailed as a future superstar of the women's game -- a female Tiger Woods -- and, apart from her prodigious length, she has the touch of a young assassin around the greens.

At last week's season-opening Mercedes Championships, Wie played in the Wednesday pro-am and made an immediate impact on her professional partner, seven-times PGA Tour winner John Huston.

"She's going to be a great player," he said. "I don't know if she'll ever play our tour because I don't think the girls, once they get past 14 or 15, develop that much more.

"But I think there's no question she'll probably be the best player out there at some point."

Last year, Sweden's Sorenstam, an LPGA Tour Hall of Famer, and Whaley, a PGA of America teaching professional, played one event apiece on the PGA Tour. Both missed the cut.

Wie has already proved she can play with the women, tying for ninth at the 2003 Nabisco Championship, the first of the year's four majors on the LPGA Tour.

She later won the U.S. Women's Public Links Championship, becoming the youngest tournament winner in the 108-year history of the U.S. Golf Association.

This week, however, will not be the first time she has played alongside the men. Last year, she missed the cut in two Nationwide and Canadian tour events, although her biggest disappointment of the year was her early exit from the U.S. Women's Amateur.

Despite Wie's undoubted talent, Huston does not expect her to make the cut this week.

"I'd be very surprised," he said. "Not to say she couldn't. I think if she drives the ball real well, she could make the cut. But, with everybody watching here, it will be very difficult."

Wie, however, has played Waialae many times and is much more familiar with the layout than Sorenstam was when she played at Colonial Country Club in last May's Colonial tournament.

"Experience matters a lot, and she doesn't have that experience," Sorenstam said. "She's going to get there and she will have a ton of experience.

"Her game is probably going to be enough one of these days. But she's only 14, she must learn, have fun."

The determined Wie, however, thinks rather differently.

"I really want to make the cut no matter what, because I think I can," she said. "I have practised there a lot and I want to make the cut. I think I should."

Wie will play a practice round at Waialae on Wednesday with defending champion Ernie Els. She will then hold a joint news conference with the big South African, on his advice.

"Playing on our tour at 14, it's a hell of an achievement," Els said. "But I'm still not sure what they're trying to prove.

"I said it before, if they prove it to themselves, if they're trying to prove something to themselves, then great. But what's the future? Are they going to go through tour school and play on our tour? I don't know.

World number one Tiger Woods also has mixed feelings.

"I think it's good experience to move up and play against people who are better than you," he said. "You do learn that way.

"But I also look at the philosophy. You need to play and win, learn the art of winning. My dad was a big believer in that.

"We (I) didn't really move up from junior golf to maybe -- let's say local junior golf, I didn't go nationally until I was playing well enough to win consistently at the junior level in my own Orange County.

"Then when I went nationally, I didn't play amateur golf until I was able to win consistently. So I learned the art of winning."

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