Wie to play Deere Classic on exemption

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Michelle Wie accepted a sponsor's exemption Monday to play in
the John Deere Classic, the second time this year the 15-year-old
from Hawaii will take her promising game to the PGA Tour.

Wie played the Sony Open in Honolulu the second week of the year
and had rounds of 75-74 in blustery conditions to miss the cut by
seven shots. A year ago, she shot 68 in the second round of the
Sony Open -- the lowest score ever by a female competing against men
-- to miss the cut by one shot.

That got the attention of the John Deere Classic, which tried to
lure the teenager last year.

This time, Wie accepted.

"Everyone we've told is excited, and I think the community will
react the same way," tournament director Clair Peterson said. "We
expect there would be spectators here who might not come out
otherwise. She may be one of those players that has interest across
all kinds of different demographic lines."

The John Deere Classic, played on the TPC at Deere Run in
Silvis, Ill., will be held July 7-10.

Wie, a sophomore at Punahou School in Honolulu, played her first
professional tournament at age 12 when she qualified for the
Takefugi Classic on the LPGA Tour. She became the youngest winner
of a USGA championship for adults two years ago by winning the U.S.
Women's Amateur Public Links.

Her focus has been on the professional tours since then.
She already has played 20 times on the LPGA Tour, including a
runner-up finish in Hawaii. Wie would be 10th on the LPGA Tour
money list in three tournaments if she took prize money.

Playing in the John Deere Classic, a 7,193-yard course that
plays to a par 71, will be part of a busy summer schedule for Wie.
She has exemptions or has qualified for all four women's majors
this year, and she plans to try qualifying for the U.S. Open in May
and the U.S. Amateur Public Links in June.

"People always ask why I do what I do, and why not just follow
the conventional path," Wie said in a recent e-mail. "I always
wanted to push myself to the limit."

The John Deere Classic, once one of the weaker tournaments on
the PGA Tour, has improved in recent years by moving to the TPC at
Deere Run and offering a spot in the British Open to the winner.

Mark Hensby of Australia is the defending champion. The field
last year included Vijay Singh, who won in 2003, Masters runner-up
Chris DiMarco, Nick Price and Zach Johnson.