Wi's blow for the men of Korea

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The Independent Online

Charlie Wi upstaged the stars on the second day of the Dubai Desert Classic here yesterday, a small step in his long-term goal of achieving respect for men's golf in his home land of South Korea. As with soccer in America, it is the women who are the revered stars of golf in the Republic.

After winning the US Open in 1998, Se Ri Pak was mobbed on her return to South Korea and is treated in the same way as Tiger Woods is in Thailand. Pak led a South Korean one-two at last year's British Open, when four more compatriots were high on the leaderboard. "This is really important for a Korean male player to do well because you don't get any respect from the media," Wi said. "All the media attention goes to the ladies. There is one Korean on the US Tour, KJ Choi, who is doing okay, but we need more to do well.

"It's not something I resent because they have performed a lot better than us. I can't say I've done half the things that Se Ri has done. If you don't perform, you don't get the coverage."

Wi followed his 68 on Thursday with a 67 yesterday in which he had a run of three birdies in a row on the front nine and four in a row coming home. "I learnt to play golf in California," he said. "This course is similar to the desert courses around Palm Springs."

Wi was 10 when his father, an engineer, moved the family to Los Angeles. He went to the University of California at Berkeley, where he got a degree in child psychology, as good a training as anything for life on the golf circuit. At college, he played against the likes of Woods and Notah Begay at Stanford. Aged 18, he had won the Californian State Amateur.

After failing four times at the US Tour School, Wi won three times last year on the Asian Tour, which led to an invitation here and yesterday led by one from Ernie Els.

Els had his second successive 68 after a miraculous four-iron at the last from sand well off the fairway, drawn around a palm tree, on to the green and a putt from 35 feet for a closing eagle. "I didn't get any applause so I thought it was in the water," Els said. "I guess they thought it was just another shot."

Elsewhere, others were hurting. John Bickerton, one further back, picked up a wrist injury practising his chipping on Tuesday and a sleepless night on Thursday due to his son's sickness. "I was a bit ratty on the first tee and the wrist was sore but being the northern lad I am, I carried on," he said.

Sam Torrance, on five under, has received exercise tips from the swimmer David Wilkie following his knee operation for a cartilage problem while Ian Woosnam, at three under after a 68, continued to limp due to blisters on his feet.

It was Colin Montgomerie's pride that was hurting after he missed the cut with a 79, his worst score since the US Open at Pebble Beach in 2000. He dropped six shots in his last six holes, including a triple bogey seven at the ninth, his last. From the middle of the fairway, his second shot failed to find grass or desert but the middle of the man-made lake. In his third tournament of the year he has yet to play more than 36 holes.

Desert Classic (Dubai, UAE) Leading second-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 135 C Wi (S Kor) 68 67. 136 E Els (SA) 68 68. 137 J Bickerton 69 68; N Fasth (Swe) 68 69. 138 R Gonzalez (Arg) 71 67. 139 S Torrance 68 71; P Broadhurst 69 70; S Dyson 71 68. 140 T Dier (Ger) 72 68; T Bjorn (Den) 67 73; A Forsbrand (Swe) 74 66; A Wall 70 70; D Park 70 70; I Poulter 71 69; G Havret (Fr) 69 71. 141 B Davis 71 70; O Karlsson (Swe) 68 73; S Struver (Ger) 69 72; G Owen 71 70; A Oldcorn 75 66; I Woosnam 73 68; G Evans 70 71; J M Lara (Sp) 71 70. 142 N Dougherty 71 71; M Gronberg (Swe) 72 70; P Fulke (Swe) 69 73; C Rodiles (Sp) 72 70; R Bland 70 72; R Green (Aus) 70 72; R Jacquelin (Fr) 71 71; M Olander (Swe) 70 72; M Hoey 74 68. 143 S Hansen (Den) 71 72; C Pettersson (Swe) 70 73; L Parsons (Aus) 72 71; D Carter 73 70; C Hanell (Swe) 72 71; D Howell 74 69; J Rose 72 71; R Karlsson (Swe) 67 76. Selected: 145 P Baker 74 71; G Emerson 74 71; P Harrington 70 75; D Clarke 72 73; N Faldo 72 73. 146 R Russell 74 72; A Butterfield 70 76; R Chapman 73 73; P Eales 72 74; A Coltart 73 73; B Lane 73 73; S Dodd 70 76. Missed the cut: Selected: 148 M Pilkington 70 78; G Orr 74 74. 149 C Montgomerie 71 79.