Wie 9 shots back of foursome of leaders

HONOLULU -- After scrambling to salvage a 5-over 75,
Michelle Wie plopped down in a chair and playfully stuck out her
bottom lip as if she had just been scolded.
The 15-year-old quickly found one positive note from a tough
time Thursday in the Sony Open.
"At least I'm not in last place," Wie said.
Wie was better than at least a dozen men on a blustery day at
Waialae Country Club, but she was nine shots behind Stewart Cink,
Brett Quigley, Tom Byrum and Hank Kuehne, who each shot 66 for a
share of the lead.
Her dream is to become the first female to make the cut since
Babe Zaharias in the 1945 Tucson Open, and the odds are no
longer in her favor.
"I think if I shoot under par tomorrow, if I end up at like 1
over par, maybe I'll make it," Wie said. "But I'm definitely
going to go for under par."
She didn't much help when the rare Kona wind, which gusted up to
25 mph, calmed slightly in the afternoon to stabilize the scoring.
Wie had said she needed some luck, but wound up with the toughest
end of the draw.
Two-time defending champion Ernie Els had to birdie the last
hole for a 71, his first round over par in the 17 rounds he has
played at Waialae. Vijay Singh was hanging around the early leaders
on the strength of an eagle at No. 9, but he took a sloppy bogey on
the par-5 18th for a 69.
"It was hard hitting every shot -- the drive, approach shot was
difficult," Singh said. "It's tough for the boys over here, you
know? Going to be tough for a girl here, too."
The comeback of the day belonged to Retief Goosen, who hit his
first two tees shots out-of-bounds, made 9 on the first hole and
played the rest of the way 3 under for a 72.
Wie opened with a 72 last year at the Sony Open, then followed
that with a 68 -- the lowest score ever by a female competing on a
men's tour -- to miss the cut by one shot.
Given the conditions, her 75 wasn't that bad. And she hit
several shots she didn't have last year, such as a knockdown driver
to keep the ball low into a wind that caused palm trees to sway.
"I was very impressed, all the different shots she was
playing," said Matt Davidson, a Q-school grad who unwittingly made
his PGA Tour debut playing in front of some 3,000 people, enough to
line every fairway from tee-to-green, standing six-deep behind the
ninth green when they finished the round.
"I didn't feel like I was playing with a 15-year-old girl,"
Davidson said after his 77. "She's very polished. She has all the
tools to be out here."
Brett Wetterich also played with Wie and had a 70.
Hardly anyone noticed the leaders. Almost everyone at Waialae
came to watch the 10th-grader from Punahou School try to prove she
can play with the boys.
Byrum was even par through 10 holes and finished with two
birdies. He was among the 47 players who finished behind Wie a year
ago and asked what she shot Thursday.
"She's going to be a great player," he said. "I might want to
beat her now while I can."
Paul Azinger, Chad Campbell and Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman
were among those at 67 on a day in which fewer than 30 players
broke par.
Azinger played with Daniel Chopra, who was 5 over with two holes
to play and birdied them both. The threesome joked about how Chopra
rallied hard to avoid losing to a 15-year-old, although Azinger put
it in perspective.
"There's no shame in losing to that girl," he said. "She's
incredible. She hits it like a man."
Wie's only birdie came on her third hole, the par-4 12th, which
showed her awesome potential. She hit a stinger driver off the tee,
then knocked down a 6-iron that faded gently to 6 feet.
She was even par for the round until a few errant drives cost
her. A tee shot on the 16th found the left rough, and Wie had to
lay up short of the green, eventually missing a 20-foot par putt.
Her only big gaffe came on the 17th, a 187-yard hole framed by
the Pacific Ocean on the left and deep bunkers on the right. Her
4-iron into the stiff wind -- the same club Els used earlier -- went
right, and she three-putted from 20 feet for a double bogey.
Wie missed a 5-footer for birdie on No. 18, dropped another shot
on No. 1, three-putted from long range on the second hole, and it
looked as if her round was getting away from her.
She turned it around by saving par from a bunker on No. 3, the
first of four quality par saves the rest of the day.
"If I didn't make a par there, who knows what the score would
be?" she said. "It could have gone both ways. If the putting had
gone, it could have been much lower. I could have made five or six
bogeys, but I hung in there."
Whether she gets to hang around for the weekend looked doubtful.
The top 70 and ties after two rounds make the cut, and Wie was
hopeful of being the first female since Babe Zaharias in the 1945
Tucson Open to do that.

Dean Wilson, the only exempt PGA Tour player from Hawaii,
did not get a sponsor's exemption but made the field as the fourth
alternate. He shot 69. ... With all the rain in California, the PGA
Tour posted a notice in the locker room that Torrey Pines, site of
the Buick Invitational next week, has received 8 inches of rain in
the last two weeks. But the forecast looks good, and while the tour
said the South Course has a dozen trees down, it expects good
conditions next week. ... Craig Stadler and Tom Kite had a 71, the
best score among the four Champions Tour players. Stadler tied his
son, Kevin Stadler, making his debut as a PGA Tour member.