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Michelle Wie top draw at inaugural Fields Open

The Fields Open doesn't have the world's top player in the field but it does have Michelle Wie.

The 16-year-old Wie will make her 2006 LPGA Tour debut at the inaugural event in her home state on Thursday. She hopes it goes better than last October, when she was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard in her professional debut at the Samsung World Championship.

Wie shot an 8-under-par 280 for a fourth-place finish, but 10 minutes after she signed her scorecard, she was brought back to the seventh hole by rules officials to discuss a drop she took during the third round.

It was determined she violated rule 20-7 - playing the ball from the wrong place - and should have been assessed a two-shot penalty. Wie felt the ball was no more than three inches closer to the hole, while rules officials estimated it was a foot to 18 inches closer.

Wie was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard because she did not give herself a two-shot penalty and had to forfeit $53,126 just hours after earning her first professional paycheck.

While that left a sour taste for Wie, now she must live up to the high expectations that she has generated and a lofty ranking as well.

Annika Sorenstam, who is not entered here, was the resounding No. 1 in the first women's world rankings released Tuesday and has been the top player on the LPGA Tour for years. However, Wie came in at No. 3, behind only Sorenstam and Paula Creamer, who won four times worldwide last season on her way to Rookie of the Year honors.

"I can't believe I was on the world rankings," Wie said. "It's a cool feeling to be No. 3 in the world. It's awesome. I can't believe it. I felt so honored to be ranked number third."

Wie's first attempt to live up to her ranking will come at Ko Olina Golf Club against a field that includes Creamer, Natalie Gulbis, Morgan Pressel and Joo Mi Kim.

Kim will be shooting for an island sweep after posting her first career victory at last week's SBS Open at Turtle Bay. Kim birdied both playoff holes to outlast fellow South Korean Soo Young Moon and Mexico's Lorena Ochoa for the title.

Pressel, the youngest player on tour at age 17, tied for fifth last week with Miriam Nagl and Gulbis. The fiery rookie will undoubtedly be motivated by Wie's presence and lofty ranking.

"I don't really want to say too much about the rankings, but I really feel the LPGA is the premier tour for women in the world and I think that's quite obvious," Pressel said. "You know, hopefully, the rankings will reflect that. We'll see what happens."

Pressel has not been shy about spouting off about Wie's $10 million endorsement deals and exemptions into major championships. Now she will get to put her clubs where her mouth is in the first of what looks to be a long line of professional matchups between the young phenoms.

The 54-hole event will be played on the 6,519-yard, par-72 course at Ko Olina Golf Club.

 

 




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