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Michelle Wie's Open status in doubt

Morgan Pressel fired the first shot two weeks before the LPGA Tour even began.

During a conference call for the Fields Open in Hawaii, the 17-year-old rookie said Michelle Wie should have to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open instead of getting an exemption.

Several veterans were outraged when Wie got a a special exemption to the Women's Open in 2004, although she tied for 13th to earn a trip back. Last year, Wie was tied for the lead going into the final round at Cherry Hills until closing with an 82 to tie for 23rd. Only the top 20 and ties are exempt the following year.

Pressel, who tied for second at Cherry Hills, said she doesn't think Wie will get an exemption this time.

"I'd be very surprised, just because of what happened last time," Pressel said. "I don't think she needs an exemption. I've been through qualifying. Everybody who doesn't make it on the money list, other amateurs, other professionals that aren't members of the tour, they all have to go through qualifying, too.

"I don't see why she shouldn't, or why she should be afraid, or expect an exemption."

Even so, USGA executive director David Fay sounded as though that were a possibility -- provided Wie "earned" her exemption in the LPGA Tour events she plays before qualifying begins for the Open.

"She's not exempt now," Fay said. "But she's in limbo."

The 16-year-old from Hawaii is exempt into the other three majors based on her '05 performance -- runner-up at the LPGA Championship and a tie for third at the Women's British Open.

Along with being the biggest draw in women's golf, one reason Wie received a special invitation in 2004 was because money she would have earned on the LPGA was equivalent to the top 35 on the LPGA money list, which is one of the criteria for being exempt.

Wie turned pro in October, although she is not a member of the LPGA Tour because of her age. Whatever money she earns does not appear on the money list. That's why Fay refers to her being in limbo.

"Let's say she were to do well enough in women's events she's going to be playing this winter and spring that if she were a member, her earnings would be such that she would be exempt," Fay said. "I think you'd be hard-pressed to explain why you wouldn't allow her to play."

The only way for Wie to avoid qualifying is to win on the LPGA Tour, and her only two chances likely will be the Fields Open or the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Fay said for the USGA not to consider her earnings -- and where that puts her on the money list -- would be holding Wie's age against her.

"How else could she qualify without winning an event?" Fay said.

The USGA had its annual meeting over the weekend in Atlanta, and Fay said there has been no decision on a special invitation. But it sounds as though Wie will need to play well in her limited starts.

February 8, 2006


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