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Top players would welcome Wie at Open

World number three Ernie Els would be happy to see American teenage prodigy Michelle Wie playing in this year's Open, and believes she is good enough to qualify.

Wie, 15, has a slim chance of becoming the first woman to compete in one of golf's four majors if she can qualify as the leading non-exempt player at the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic in July.

"It would make (the Open) interesting, wouldn't it?" Els told reporters on Wednesday as he prepared for this week's BMW Asian Open.

"She is a better player than she was last year," added the South African, who won his third major title at the 2002 Open at Muirfield.

"She is getting stronger and I think she is swinging better. It's not impossible for her to (qualify)."

British Open organisers said on Tuesday they were not opposed to women competing at St Andrews in July and that Wie would qualify if she won the John Deere Classic on the men's PGA Tour the previous week.

The 15-year-old Hawaiian has a sponsor's invitation for the July 7-10 event in Illinois, which offers automatic entry into the British Open for the leading non-exempt player.

Honolulu schoolgirl Wie, then aged 14, narrowly failed to become the first woman to make the cut in a PGA Tour event last year, missing out by a shot at the Hawaiian Open.

Els, however, sounded a note of caution.

"If it is a long, wet golf course (in Illinois) she has no chance," he said. "She does not carry the ball 290 (yards) and in the modern game a lot of men carry it 290.

"If the place is firm, I give her a good chance. I don't know what the bookies say but she has half a chance."

Britain's Colin Montgomerie also backed Wie's attempt to qualify for the game's oldest tournament.

"If someone has qualified -- like I had to last year (for the Open) -- then fine," said the Scot. "Provided it is not an invite.

"If a woman beat me, then all credit to her."

Els added he would be happy to be paired with Wie on the first day of the British Open, should she qualify.

"Why not?" he said. "I could show her around a little bit."


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