Wind blows Wie off historic course

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The Independent Online

Michelle Wie shot a 2-over-par 74 Sunday to finish out of title contention at the shortened SK Telecom Open, where she made a cut in a men's tournament for the first time.

The Hawaiian-born teenager had two birdies against four bogeys at the Sky 72 Golf Club course for a three-round, 3-under 213 - 14 strokes behind winner Prom Meesawat of Thailand (68).

"I did my best, but the result was not as satisfying as I would have liked," Wie said after her final round. "But the most important thing is that I tried my best.

"It just didn't really go the way I wanted today," she said.

Indian Jeev Milkha and Lee Seung-ho of South Korea shot final rounds of 70 to share second place at 12-under, one stroke ahead of defending champion K.J. Choi (65).

Heavy rain and strong winds forced the cancellation of the third round of the Asian Tour event, which was shortened from 72 holes to 54. Wie was at the tee when the rain hit Saturday. After a delay of almost three hours, the course was declared unplayable.

Wie shot a 3-under 69 in the second round Friday to make the cut by five strokes and improve on her opening 70 to start the final round at three-under-par and six strokes off the pace.

"I was really, really happy I've passed the first stage," Wie said Sunday of making the cut, adding she now has her sights set on the U.S. PGA and a men's tournament win.

"Now I want to make the next step," she said.

The SK Telecom Open is Wie's eighth men's event. She has played in four U.S. PGA Tour events and has competed on the Japan, Nationwide and Canadian tours, missing the 36-hole cut in all seven tournaments. No woman has made the cut on the U.S. PGA Tour since Babe Zaharias at the 1945 Tucson Open.

Wie opened her final round confidently Sunday, with birdies on the 2nd and 3rd holes, moving her to 7-under in early play despite high winds that sent her early shots wild of the fairways and greens.

Two bogeys later and she was back where she started.

On No. 4, Wie added a penalty stroke when her tee-shot fell short of the green and rolled back across a hazard line just feet from the water. She then watched her 8-foot putt lip out on the 5th and swung her club in frustration after forcing herself into a two-putt finish on the 9th.

The sweltering heat did little to help matters, and Wie went on to bogey the 11th and 15th.

Wie became the second woman to make the cut at a men's tournament in South Korea. LPGA star Se Ri Pak tied for 10th in the lower-tier KPGA Tour SBS Pro-Golf Championship in 2003.

Annika Sorenstam, the world's top female player, became the first woman in 58 years to compete on the U.S. PGA Tour when she missed the cut at the Colonial in 2003, shooting rounds of 71 and 74. She has played in men's Skins Games the last two years.

Wie's parents were born in South Korea and her visit here has been treated like a homecoming by the local media and public, who formed galleries of thousands and clogged an expressway Friday to catch her play.

When Wie, known here by her Korean name Wie Sung-mi, played the third hole Friday, a toddler in a flowery dress shouted encouragement for "on-ni (big sister)" as she strode by.

Buoyed by her strong performance in South Korea, Wie now heads to the U.S. Open qualifying round in Hawaii later this month. She will then contest two U.S. PGA tournaments - the John Deere Classic in July, where last year she fell two strokes short of the cut with a double bogey on the par-4 6th, and September's 84 Lumber Classic.

"I have to practice my iron shots more," Wie said. "I have to work on them until the John Deere Classic."