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John Deere Classic
Michelle Wie looking to go one better
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Michelle Wie ready for John Deere challenge

American teenager Michelle Wie tees off against the men this week at the $4 million John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois with a chance to claim the final qualifying spot for the British Open.

The 15-year-old's presence at Deere Run would, even under normal circumstances, draw the sporting spotlight. But with an opportunity to gain entry into the world's oldest major, Wie has sparked a media frenzy during what is traditionally a quiet final week in the buildup to the Open.

To book a ticket to St Andrews, where the Royal and Ancient Golf Club has already said Wie would be welcome to compete as along as she qualified through normal channels, the schoolgirl must finish on Sunday as highest non-exempt player.

Wie will need to reach several other career milestones if she is to turn teenage dreams into reality.

It is the third time the hard-hitting amateur has gone toe-to-toe with the professionals on the PGA Tour but the first outside her home in Hawaii where she has twice played in the Sony Open and failed to make the cut both times.

No woman, not even Annika Sorenstam, has made the cut at a PGA Tour event since Babe Zaharias in 1945 at the Tucson Open.

With her thundering 300-plus yard drives, textbook swing and fearless ambition, greatness is predicted for Wie but for all her immense talent she has yet to celebrate a win on either the women's or men's Tours.

She has recorded top 25 finishes in all three women's majors this season, including a second at the LPGA championship, and even started the fourth round at the U.S. Open tied for the lead.

A final-round collapse at Cherry Hill, however, exposed a shocked Wie's youthful shortcomings as she fumbled her way to an 11-over 82 finishing in a tie for 23rd.

"I think learning how to win is important," said Wie. "I think I can learn how to win out here, too. It takes a long time, but I'm still going to learn how to win.

"I feel like I have nothing to lose. Basically I'm the underdog here, so I'm just going to have a lot of fun.

"I have to play very well to make the cut.

"But I think if I focus on just making the cut, then it'll be harder to do and I just have a score in mind I want to shoot.

"In the long run, I do want to play out here. It's very exciting, and ever since I was very young I wanted to play with the guys."

Though world number one Tiger Woods is away fishing and most of the world's top 50 are practising their games for St Andrews, the competition at the John Deere, with one final berth at the British Open up for grabs, will be no less cut throat.

Only two players ranked among the top 30 will tee it up at Deere Run, Americans David Toms (10), the world number 10 and 1997 winner, (16) Stewart Cink.

Defending champion Mark Hensby of Australian, who defeated John Morgan in playoff last year to notch his first U.S. PGA Tour success, appears ready to make a strong bid after challenging last week at the Western Open and finishing in a tie for third at the U.S. Open.


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