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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 23, 2006

Wie, Pressel begin pro rivalry at Fields Open

 •  LPGA Fields Open in Hawai'i tee times
 •  Holes in one
 •  Golf notices

By Bill Kwon

Ko Olina director of golf Greg Nichols says that Michelle Wie is a favorite at the Fields Open, played at Ko Olina Resort.


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Morgan Pressel, who finished tied for seventh in her pro debut, is not afraid to show her emotions, or to speak her mind, on the golf course.


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Michelle vs. Morgan. Morgan vs. Michelle. The Battle of the Teen Queens.

The hype generated by golf publications and The Golf Channel starts today as Michelle Wie and Morgan Pressel meet in the same tournament for the first time as professionals in the Fields Open in Hawai'i at the Ko Olina Resort.

Too bad they are not playing in the same threesome.

Boy, if Rory Sabbatini thought he had it rough playing against gallery favorite Fred Couples in Sunday's Nissan Open, it would be nothing compared to how Pressel would feel playing in the same group with the local darling of golf.

She would think she was Danielle Ammaccapane or SI writer Michael Bamberger.

Actually, the Michelle-Morgan hype has no real substance, because they've never actually spoken ill of each other.

It has been a she-said, she-said thing generated by the media types.

Only thing, the "she" in each case has been Pressel, who has been openly candid about all the free rides that Wie has been getting into prestigious tournaments. Pressel, however, says it's nothing personal.

"I will tell you how I feel. I mean, I don't think that it's necessarily a bad thing," Pressel said before the SBS Open at Turtle Bay, which opened the 2006 LPGA season last week.

She is only 17, as 49-year-old Sherri Turner, the oldest in the field again this week, keeps reminding herself.

Pressel plays with her emotions on her sleeves on every stroke and she will let you know if her shot wasn't a good one. It's just her nature.

And certainly, if there are any hard feelings though why would Wie have any you won't hear it from the 16-year-old high school junior, who knows well enough, growing up in Hawai'i, that if you can't say anything good about anybody, don't say anything at all.

No trash talking. Or, as we say in the Islands, "no talk stink, eh."

So this is a tournament where both Wie and Pressel can let their golf sticks do the talking.

For the record, Pressel played in only two of the eight LPGA events Wie entered last year the U.S. Women's Open and the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

If you're keeping score, they are 1-1 in terms of better finishes, playing in the same tournaments as amateurs last year.

Pressel finished tied for second in the U.S. Women's Open to 23rd for Wie, who suffered an inexplicable meltdown after sharing the 54-hole lead with Pressel and Karen Stupples.

In the Kraft Nabisco, Wie wound up five notches higher on the leaderboard with her 14th-place finish.

Pressel was impressive in her LPGA debut at the Palmer Course, finishing in a tie for fifth at 7-under 209 to cash her first paycheck of the year, worth $33,952.

She could have done a lot better. She and Natalie Gulbis led in hitting the most fairways (88.1 percent), but Pressel hit only 73.6 percent of the greens in regulation and couldn't get it close when she did.

While the South Koreans were dominating the SBS Open, Wie skipped that event to practice daily at the site of this week's tournament. She made it a point of charting Ko Olina's undulating Bermuda greens that will make putting more difficult than the Seashore paspallum greens at the Palmer Course.

The knowledge of Ko Olina's greens, which can break in all directions, will give Wie a decided advantage, according to Greg Nichols, Ko Olina's director of golf.

"I think she's definitely the favorite to win the tournament," he said. "She knows the greens, she knows the course, where all the trouble spots are, and she feels at home here.

"I know there's some outstanding talent out here. The field is deep. But Michelle can win, especially if the wind blows because the golf course will play harder."

Also, don't ignore the hometown factor, added Nichols, who said that Wie's presence has doubled attendance projections. He feels the inaugural event will draw 15,000 for the week.

It has nothing to do with any pre-tournament hype. It's a testimony to Wie's drawing power.

Just imagine, though, what it would be like if the M&M girls are paired in the final group on Saturday.