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Michelle Wie confident despite failures

Teenage golf superstar Michelle Wie insisted she was "very close" to a breakthrough despite rounding off her first full professional season with yet another flop in a men's event here.

Wie, 17, was second from bottom after two days of the 1.2 million dollar Casio Open, missing the cut by a massive 17 strokes.

But the Korean-American high school senior, who flew home on a private jet Sunday, said she was already looking forward to another men's event early next year.

"I feel like I have to make a couple of adjustments on my set, my clubs. And I think I'll be good," she said.

"You know, right now, I feel like I'm very close."

Sony and Nike signed multi-million dollar endorsement deals with Wie when she turned professional in October last year, but her performances have failed to live up to the hype.

Wie has survived the half-way cut only once in her 12 appearances on men's national or international tours, including six on the premier US PGA circuit. She finished 35th at the Asian tour's SK Telecom Open last May in South Korea.

Despite criticism that she should mature first in the women's game, Wie said she would continue to play men's events next season.

"I think I want to play a lot of men's events next year but my tour schedule is not finalized yet," she said.

"The girls grow faster than the guys and I think I'm much done with growing," said the teenager, who measures 185 centimeters (six foot one) tall.

"It gives a lot of excitement to my life," she added, when asked about playing the men.

"Definitely, I've learned a lot by playing with the guys."

Wie said she would take some time off before resuming sessions with David Leadbetter, her swing coach of four years.

"I'm taking some time off now to go back to school, study a little bit," said Wie, who has applied for entry into Stanford University.

"I'm looking foward to good practice sessions with Leadbetter and I think I'll be good."

The famed coach will aim to correct Wie's faults before the second week of January, when she will compete in the US PGA Sony Open in Hawaii for the fourth straight year on sponsor's exemption.

She struggled here with a new, square-headed driver, hitting it over side paths four times in the first round.

She switched back to a conventional driver for the second round but continued to hit out of bounds, clearing trees, a hill and at one point landing on an adjacent hole.

Wie was reportedly guaranteed nearly 870,000 dollars by Casio for her appearance here this year. She missed the cut by just one stroke last year.

"There is nothing on the drawing boards at present," said the tournament's chief secretary, Hiroyuki Miyazaki, when asked if Wie will be invited again next year.

Wie has been out of form since September when she finished last in the qualifying rounds at men's events -- the Omega European Masters and the US PGA Lumber Classic.

In July, she bowed out of the second round of the PGA John Deere Classic with heat exhaustion.

"I feel really disappointed, although she did her best to get ready for this tournament," her father B.J. Wie told AFP. "Somehow, sometimes in golf, how to control yourself is very sophisticated."

The senior Wie, 45, a professor at the University of Hawaii, said her daugher would continue playing against the men "if she's given opportunities."

"She just has to attend school full time and play as a professional. I think she has managed her time very well," said the father, who started teaching her golf when she was four.

Due to age restrictions, Wie can play a maximum of eight tournaments a year on the LPGA tour on sponsors' invites.

She has yet to triumph on the senior US women's LPGA tour. But she finished third at two majors, the Kraft Nabisco and the US Open, and fifth at the LPGA Championship this year.

Wie was the second woman to advance beyond the halfway mark at a men's tournament in South Korea since 2003, when US LPGA star Pak Se Ri finished 10th at the SBS Super Tournament on the Korean PGA tour.

Pak, a South Korean, was the first woman in 58 years to make the cut in a men's nationwide tournament since American Babe Didrikson Zaharias on the US PGA in 1945.



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