Leadbetter casts doubt over Wie's Open chances

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The Independent Online

As male professionals almost fell over each other to do anything but write off Michelle Wie's chances of qualifying for this year's Open, it was left to the man who knows the 15-year-old's swing better than any other to provide a bit of much-needed reality to the fantasy that has swept the golfing world in the last 48 hours.

As male professionals almost fell over each other to do anything but write off Michelle Wie's chances of qualifying for this year's Open, it was left to the man who knows the 15-year-old's swing better than any other to provide a bit of much-needed reality to the fantasy that has swept the golfing world in the last 48 hours.

"It's a real long shot," her coach, David Leadbetter, said from his Orlando base yesterday when asked about the likelihood of his student finishing as the top player not already qualified for the Open at the John Deere Classic in July and thus becoming the first female to play in a major at St Andrews the following week. "Let's not get carried away. More than anything it shows that the ladies, Annika Sorenstam and the like, are being recognised. The Royal and Ancient are hedging their bets, and I think it shows foresight."

Leadbetter did reveal the extent of his pupil's seemingly limitless ambition. "Obviously, Michelle's long-term goals are to be more than just an LPGA player," he said. "It's certainly an interesting development."

Indeed it is, as confirmed by Wie's intended rivals in Shanghai yesterday for this week's BMW Open. Ernie Els was most supportive, the Big Easy suggesting that the Big Wiesy "had a good chance" in Illinois. However, there was a note of caution. "If it's a long, wet course, she has no chance," the South African said.

And that was the general, if not greatly aired, view. "Good luck to her," Colin Montgomerie said. "If someone has qualified for The Open like I did last year, then fine, and if she beats me, then fine too. Provided it's not an invite."

Which in a way, Wie's would be, as she has not qualified for the John Deere Classic by any more right than an invite from a sponsor. Paul Casey was careful not to say as much, although hinted at the sense of unfairness felt in the journeyman ranks. "I have been denied spots before when they would go to other players," he said.

What they would think of a teenaged girl taking one of "their" places does not bear repeating.

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