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Posted on: Saturday, August 5, 2006

Penalty drops Wie 10 shots off British lead

Michelle Wie at the Women's British Open

By Robert Millward
Associated Press

Michelle Wie wasn't too happy with her second shot on the 17th hole in yesterday's second round.

MATT DUNHAM | Associated Press

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Michelle Wie just missed a birdie putt on the third green in yesterday's second round of the Women's British Open.

MATT DUNHAM | Associated Press

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LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England Michelle Wie walked off the course at Royal Lytham pleased with her par saves on the final two holes.

Then she got to the recorders' office and realized her effort was all for naught.

Wie was penalized two strokes for making contact with a piece of moss behind her ball during her backswing while hitting out of a greenside bunker at the 14th. That left her with a 2-over 74 yesterday and a two-day total of 4-over 148 at the Women's British Open 10 shots behind leader Juli Inkster.

"There was a piece of moss right behind my ball," Wie said. "I knew I hit it but I didn't think it would result in a penalty of two strokes. I thought if you hit dirt it would be OK but I guess I knew the rule wrong.

"It's not good after you play you find out you add two more shots in the end. The par saves I made on 17 and 18 feel as though they count for nothing in the end."

Inkster had an even-par 72, leaving her at 6-under 138, three shots better than Silvia Cavalleri of Italy. Inkster is seeking her eighth major and, if she can hold on, the 46-year-old would become the oldest golfer to win an LPGA Tour major.

"I'm very happy with the way I played today, the way I got it in, the way I got myself around this golf course," Inkster said. "Tomorrow, if I drive the ball a little better on the par 5s, I'll feel pretty good.

"Sometimes in majors you really have to grind it out and today was one of those days so I'm very happy with what I shot."

Wie now seems to have little chance of winning her first tournament.

The 16-year-old from Hawai'i came into the tournament with high hopes after a second-place finish at last week's Evian Masters and top-five finishes in her previous four majors. But she is tied for 37th heading into the weekend.

"It is even going to be even a more dramatic finish," she said.

The fact she had touched the moss behind her ball was noticed by TV viewers and also tournament officials.

It's not the first time in her short pro career that Wie has been penalized and found out about it later.

In her first tournament as a professional, the Samsung World Championship at Palm Desert, California, last October, she took a penalty drop for an unplayable lie during her third round. At the end of the tournament, officials ruled she made her drop at the wrong place, should have taken a two-shot penalty and disqualified her for signing an incorrect card.

Asked if yesterday's infraction would cause her to go back and closely examine the rule book, Wie joked, "Well, it is not actually great reading material, but I am going to definitely call a rules official if something questionable happens."

Now she is 10 strokes behind Inkster, who shows no sign of giving up her lead despite another struggle to come to terms with British courses.

Inkster won all her seven majors on North American courses and confesses that she appeared to leave her golf game on the plane whenever she flew over to England. In eight visits, her best result is a tie for 10th at Royal Birkdale six years ago just before it became a major on the LPGA Tour.

She then missed the cut at Sunningdale and Turnberry, tied for 41st here at Lytham in 2003, for 25th again at Sunningdale and for 15th last year at Birkdale.

Cavalleri, whose best performance on the LPGA Tour is a tie for third at the 2002 Corning Classic, was tied for the lead with Inkster until she took two shots to get out of a bunker at the 17th. She made triple-bogey seven and finished with a 73 for 3-under 141.