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Michelle Wie still has distant US Open chance

Michelle Wie is hoping for a break to keep her long-shot bid alive to play in this year's U.S. Open.

``Hopefully a couple of people will break their legs and I'll get in,'' Wie said with a giggle.

The 15-year-old Wie shot a 4-over 76 in a U.S. Open local qualifier Friday, failing to secure one of four berths in sectional play. But the high school sophomore still has a chance to play with the men at Pinehurst. She finished in a three-way tie for sixth and was declared the second alternate.

A playoff between her and Andrew Feldmann and Norman Asao, both of Honolulu, could not be played because neither were at Turtle Bay Resort after Wie finished. USGA official Stephen Perry said because Wie was the only player left, she earned the second alternate spot.

Before the qualifier, Wie selected to play the sectional in Maryland. But her chances are still slim to make the U.S. Open because most golfers won't turn down an opportunity to play in the sectionals for a chance to qualify for the sport's second-oldest championship.

Wie already has qualified for the U.S. Women's Open at Cherry Hills in Denver in June, having tied for 13th last year at age 14. She tied for 14th at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the women's first major of the year, and has exemptions into the other majors: the LPGA Championship and Women's British Open.

Wie struggled to a 5 over on the front nine at Turtle Bay before rebounding on the back nine on the 7,199-yard Palmer Course.

Her first birdie came at the par-5 12th hole, when she drained a 6-foot putt. But she gave a stroke back at No. 13 after her tee shot landed in a fairway bunker.

Her only other birdie came at No. 16. After a booming 320-yard drive, she hit a spinning approach shot over the hole that left her with a 9-footer for birdie.

Playing in the last group Friday in the 55-golfer field, Wie routinely outdrove her playing partners by 10 to 20 yards, but struggled with her short game on the same course on which she finished tied for second in the LPGA Tour's SBS Open in February.

``I felt like I played really well, but the greens are a little bumpy, aerated and stuff,'' she said. ``So it was really hard for me to get in a rhythm.''

After opening with a par, Wie had a run of four straight bogeys. She had three-putt bogeys at the second and third holes, and her tee shot at the par-3 fourth hole sailed left, bounced off a rock and plopped into the water. She then missed her 4-foot par putt at No. 5.

``The first few holes, I was just trying to get a feel for the greens,'' Wie said. ``I made a lot of stupid bogeys out there but I think I played well on the back nine.''

With her father as her caddie, Wie missed a 2-foot par putt at 574-yard, par-5 ninth hole and closed her eyes in disgust. She had a 41 on the front nine.

Wie had the only gallery of the day on the oceanside course, but it was her smallest of the year. About two dozen people, half of them media members, followed her in the breezy, balmy conditions.

``It's awesome she's playing with the guys and outdriving them,'' said spectator Jill Knight of Medford, Ore. ``She's a stud. She sure doesn't look or act 15.''

University of Hawaii sophomore Pierre-Henri Soero had the low round at 2-under 70, and Regan Lee was second with a 72. Joe Phengsavath of Honolulu and Shizuo Mori of Japan were another stroke back and joined the top finishers in earning spots in 36-hole sectional qualifying. The first alternate is Kevin Hayashi of Hilo, who had a 74.

Wie rose to national prominence by becoming the youngest winner of a USGA championship for adults, winning the Women's Amateur Public Links at 13. She made her PGA Tour debut at the 2004 Sony Open and had a 68 in the second round at Waialae Country Club, missing the cut by one shot.

She has played 20 times on the LPGA Tour, twice on the PGA Tour and once each on the Nationwide and Canadian tours.

Her next appearance on PGA Tour is the John Deere Classic (July 7-10) on a sponsor's exemption.

 

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