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Wie qualifies for U.S. Women's Open on third attempt

HEATHROW, Fla. -- Credit the impatience of youth for one of
golf's newest phenoms landing a berth in the U.S. Women's Open.

Thirteen-year-old Michelle Wie birdied the first hole of a
playoff at a sectional qualifying event on Monday, giving her one
of the last bids to the upcoming major tournament.

She struggled early at the Country Club of Heathrow, north of
Orlando, with three straight bogeys in her first six holes, but
rallied with an even-par final round to reach the playoff.

"As she teed up, she said 'Let's make birdie so we can get out
of here,''' said her father and caddie, B.J. Wie, a University of
Hawaii professor. "So, she made a birdie.''

The U.S. Women's Open will be played at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club
in North Plains, Ore., on July 3-6.

Also winning a berth in the playoff was 15-year-old Morgan
Pressel.

Wie and Pressel, part of golf's growing wave of talented tyros,
were tied with Elisabeth Esteril with 5-over 147s after the 36-hole
qualifier.

The three began the playoff with solid drives on a 369-yard
par-4, an uphill dogleg left. Wie stuck a 6-iron from 160 yards
within 4 feet of the pin.

"I didn't know I hit it that well,'' said Wie, who had
unsuccessfully tried twice before to qualify for the Open. "I was
just hoping to get it on the green, two-putt and, if someone missed
or makes a mistake, then, oh well. But I hit it better than I
expected.''

Esteril hit into a sand trap before Pressel knocked the ball
into the fringe. Esteril couldn't make the sand save and Pressel
two-putted for par, setting up Wie's putt as the clincher.

Wie said she entered the qualifier in Florida because it is
close to her coach Gary Gilchrist, who works at the David
Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton.

"I had a feeling I was going to (qualify) because I make
everything on my third try,'' Wie said. "I got to the Open on my
third try, I got to the U.S. Juniors on my third try, I got to the
U.S. Amateur on my third try.''

This will be the second major for Wie. At the Kraft Nabisco
Championship in March, she shot a 6-under 66 to get into the final
group Sunday before finishing ninth.

"She can win (the Open),'' B.J. Wie said.

Pressel, two years ago the youngest player to ever qualify for
the Open, was looking forward to Wie's presence at the major.

"It's a good thing. That takes a lot of pressure off my back,''
she said.

The Open will be just one highlight of what promises to be a
busy summer for Wie, nicknamed "The Big Wiesy.'' She's already
agreed to compete against the men in the Boise Open, a tournament
on the PGA Tour's developmental circuit, and the Canadian Tour's
Bay Mills Open Players' Championship. There also will be some
appearances on the LPGA Tour.

Despite Wie's gender and precocious age, her drives approach 300
yards -- but it was a poor short game that nearly doomed her in the
qualifier.

On the par-3 4th, her tee shot missed the green and she pushed
her par putt right. The next hole saw her miss a 3-foot putt for
par and a 2-footer for par on No. 6 also missed. She later
double-bogeyed No. 11 and waited until the final hole to collect
her first birdie and finish at 5-over.

"I was pretty worried after my 76 because I wasn't hitting as
well as I wanted to,'' Wie said.

Wie's poor hitting, according to her father, could be blamed on
her failure to compensate for the damp grounds caused by a morning
shower.

"First round, her club selection was off -- mostly under-club,''
B.J Wie said. "She was lacking experience. She didn't realize that
when you hit the ball in wet conditions, you lose about 10 yards.

"She didn't believe that; now, she believes that.''

The qualifier gave a glimpse into the future, as four of the six
players to receive Open bids are teenagers.

"It's really great,'' said Wie, who turns 14 in October,
"because I'm not that weird anymore.''