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LPGA working to get Wie in to 2006 major

LPGA Tour officials have been looking at the criteria for the Kraft Nabisco Championship over the last few weeks. All they need now is time to meet with everyone involved before announcing Michelle Wie will be eligible for the first major of next year.

``I've been told they're going to work to get her in,'' said her agent, Ross Berlin.

Wie almost certainly will be joined at Mission Hills by Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lang, all of whom are otherwise eligible because of high finishes in the majors.

The problem was language in the contract that required them to be LPGA Tour members. Pressel cannot join the tour until her 18th birthday in May, while Wie has no intentions of joining for two years.

But LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens said last week that the Kraft Nabisco contract is 20 years old and needs to be updated, adding that ``I'm fairly certain'' Wie will be allowed to play.

Tour officials looked closely at the spirit of the contract, and realized there was some flexibility in the exemptions Kraft Nabisco typically doles out in the limited-field tournament. Rob Neal, vice president of tournament business affairs, said the Kraft contract won't be changed but will be updated to accommodate Wie and Pressel.

``This is an unprecedented situation,'' Neal said, referring to qualified teenagers who have turned pro without being LPGA members. ``The intention is they would love for these players to get in. It's really sitting down and making sure the spirit of the contract is met as we define the criteria into 2006.''

The rest of Wie's schedule might not be so simple to figure out.

She is allowed six LPGA Tour exemptions -- that doesn't include the U.S. Women's Open or the Women's British Open -- which could turn into a sweepstakes because of Wie's popularity.

Tiger Woods brought financial gain to PGA Tour events he played when he was living off sponsor exemptions, but he was trying to make enough money to get his card without going to Q-school. Woods needed those tournaments as much as they needed him.

That's not the case with Wie, who doesn't plan to join the LPGA Tour until she's 18.

Does she stay loyal to tournaments that have given her exemptions, such as the Wendy's Championship, Safeway International and Kingsmill? Or does she look at tournaments with the best fields and biggest purses that fit around a complicated schedule?

``We have close relationships with a lot of sponsors that have helped her before,'' said her father, B.J. Wie. ``It will be a tough decision. Her school schedule comes first, but sometimes we will feel obligated. She only has six choices.''

One casualty could be the Safeway International, which will be played March 16-19 and is the week before Wie goes on spring break. The week after her break is the Kraft Nabisco.

As for the rest of the year? Berlin said they have not decided where she is playing on any of the tours, although he expects her to play between 11 and 15 events.

October 19, 2005

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