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Michelle Wie to play 2006 Sony Open

Michelle Wie will start 2006 much like the past two years -- competing against men on her home island. But this time around, she'll be playing for pay.

Wie has received and accepted a sponsor's exemption to play in January's Sony Open, the first full-field PGA Tour event of the year, tournament officials said Tuesday.

``We're in the entertainment business, it's more than just a golf tournament,'' PGA Tour vice president Ric Clarson said. ``So when a player like Michelle plays in the Sony Open, it creates national and international attention on, 'Can she do it?'

``Now that she has turned professional, there's even more attention on her progress as a player.''

It will be Wie's third straight Sony Open, where she made her PGA Tour debut in 2004 as a 14-year-old and missed the cut by a stroke. Her 68 in the second round was the lowest score by a female competing against men.

She also missed the cut in January at Waialae Country Club.

``I think it's a perfect fit with her roots here in Hawaii and that fact that she has played here in the past,'' Clarson said. ``It's almost like watching one of your children grow up.''

Wie has been a marketing success story for the Sony Corp. ever since company executives took a gamble and took the unprecedented move of inviting a high school freshman to play against the best male golfers in the world.

The tournament has since enjoyed record attendance, strong ratings and attracted media from around the world.

``Two years ago when we gave an exemption to Michelle Wie, from a Japanese corporate standpoint, she was just a hotshot local kid,'' said Masao Morita, Sony's senior vice president. ``We weren't really sure how good she was,''

The company is now one of Wie's multimillion dollar sponsors. The other is Nike.

Sony also announced it was extending its title sponsorship of the Sony Open through 2010.

October 26, 2005

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