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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 26, 2006

A Wie win may not be too far off

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

 •  Wie's big rally falls short

KAPOLEI Go ahead, remind Michelle Wie that she still hasn't won a professional golf tournament yet.

Take your best shot at rubbing in the fact that, unlike her seven-figure bank account, the mantel sits empty but for that 2003 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links trophy.

But better do it now because you get the feeling the shelf life on you-still-haven't-done-anything-yet jabs is getting shorter than her Nike skirts after yesterday's third-place finish in the Fields Open in Hawai'i.

It wasn't so much where Wie wound up after all she's already had three second-place LPGA finishes. Nor was it her first tournament paycheck, the $73,227 being practically ear ring money by her trust fund standards.

Rather it was how she got there in an eye-opening afternoon at Ko Olina Golf Club. With a 6-under-par 66 for a three-day 13 under par, she came up a couple putts short of a full-fledged breakthrough.

It was also how she aggressively went after the course and anyone on the board who stood in her way. How she powered her way into a share of the lead.

Seven birdies against one bogey transported Wie from where she started the day, six strokes off the lead, to a share of the top of the leaderboard until the final hole and, in the process took a mushrooming gallery along for quite a ride. The gallery rooted for and almost got a Cinderella story that would have put her in company with David Ishii, the late Ted Makalena and Jackie Pung as Hawai'i-born golfers who won major pro tournaments.

Only after stepping out of the scorer's tent at 18, where she disappointedly watched Meena Lee drop a birdie to go to 14 under and on to an eventual playoff victory over Seon-Hwa Lee, did the 16-year-old's most enduring run at first prize finally end and most of the gallery reluctantly call it a day.

Until then the championship bid that had seemed a longshot when the morning sun peeked over the 'Ewa plain had come to take on intriguing don't-look-now possibilities with each hole.

Wie started the day tied for ninth with playing partner Morgan Pressel. But the buildup of a Wie vs. Pressel matchup was soon relegated to a side story as it became clear Wie was intent upon taking on the entire field.

After her fifth birdie of the day at 11 to close to one stroke of the lead, the course came abuzz and scoreboard watching took on "did-you-see-that?" importance.

Crowds swelled to five and six deep reminiscent her Sony Open following at Waialae. Word quickly passed among the galleries so that by the time Wie strode up 14 vocal support was forthcoming nearly each step of the 470 yards.

There was a "Go Michelle" banner spread across a course-side home. A truck tooted its support from adjacent Farrington Highway. Everywhere people wanted to believe. To lend a hand.

By the time Wie reached 16 she was tied with Meena Lee and the crowd made sure she knew it with thundering applause that followed her to the 18th green. At times, Wie said, she felt like she knew everybody on the course. All of them knew what a victory would have meant.

"It would have been awesome if I had won, but unfortunately it didn't happen this week," Wie said. "But, hopefully, it will happen in the next one."

If it does, nobody should be surprised. Not after yesterday.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.