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Michelle Wie could gain entry to Open

Teenage American prodigy Michelle Wie could qualify for this year's British Open.

Organisers said on Tuesday they were not opposed to the principle of women competing and that Wie would book her place in the field if she won the John Deere Classic on the men's PGA Tour in July.

Victory in that tournament would also earn her a spot in the U.S. PGA Championship, the last of the year's four majors, the PGA of America has said.

"If Michelle Wie wins the John Deere Classic, she would qualify for the Open championship," Royal and Ancient Golf Club (R&A) chief executive Peter Dawson told a news conference at St Andrews.

Hawaiian schoolgirl Wie, 15, has a sponsor's invitation for the July 7-10 event at Silvis, Illinois where she could also qualify for the British Open if she finished as the leading player not otherwise exempt.

"That's one of our exemption categories for the Open championship," said Dawson. "There is a clause in the entry form for this year's tournament about the championship committee having the discretion to accept or refuse any entry."

That discretion would allow British Open organisers to by-pass the official wording that entries would be accepted only from a "male professional or from a male amateur golfer".

Dawson added: "There is no resistance to women playing in the Open championship if they can qualify for the championship.

"It is not a matter of principle but of detail. Any hesitancy we have is in the detail.

"For example, a scratch woman amateur does not play off the same tees as a scratch male amateur, and this is something that would have to be looked at closely."

Martin Kippax, chairman of the Open championship committee, said the wording of male-only players was under review for next year's tournament at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.

"This is under consideration at the moment. What we're trying to do is to ensure that we maintain a level playing field.

"The detail of it all will be canvassed when the next entry form comes out -- probably in August," he added.

Honolulu schoolgirl Wie, then aged 14, stunned the sporting world last year when she narrowly failed to become the first female to make the cut in a PGA Tour event at the Hawaiian Open, missing out by a shot after firing a second-round 68.

Touted as the future Tiger Woods of the women's game, she has entered local qualifying in Hawaii for this year's U.S. Open, the second major of the year.

Wie would also be welcome at the U.S. Masters next April if she met the required standards by winning the previous year the men's U.S. or British amateur titles, or either of the U.S. amateur public links or U.S. mid-amateur crowns.

"We'd be pleased to have Michelle play in the Masters tournament if she qualifies," Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson said two years ago.

Although golf is known for its long-held traditions and private club mentality, the winds of change now appear to be blowing a little more favourably for women players.

This year's British Open will be played at St Andrews, the home of the R&A, from July 14-17. The U.S. PGA Championship takes place at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey from August 11-14.

 

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