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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 9:15 a.m., Monday, May 15, 2006

Wie to play U.S. Women's Open, European men's event

By Jimmy Golen
Associated Press

NEWPORT, R.I. - Michelle Wie received another exemption to the U.S. Women's Open and accepted her first exemption to a European tour men's event Monday in what was shaping up as a big day for the 16-year-old phenom.

She also faced the first stage of U.S. Open men's qualifying at Turtle Bay's Palmer Course.

The special exemption to the U.S. Women's Open was hardly a surprise. Although Wie does not appear on the official money list because she is not an LPGA member, she would have ranked 12th last year and would be within the top 35 in 2006 _ and eligible for the Women's Open _ after just two events this year.

Wie finished third in the Fields Open and tied for third at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, both times missing a playoff by one shot. She has earned $181,449, which would place her 16th on the money list.

"I think she clearly has enough experience to play," defending Women's Open champion Birdie Kim said Monday at the Newport Country Club. "I think even if she goes through qualifying, she'd make it through."

She also will play Sept. 7-10 in the Omega European Masters in Switzerland, her first time competing on the European tour. Wie has competed eight times against the men on five tours, making the cut for the first time May 7 in the SK Telecom Open in South Korea.

"Michelle Wie has demonstrated her outstanding golfing skills to a global audience as both an amateur and now as a professional, and we look forward to welcoming her to the Omega European Masters," said George O'Grady, executive director of the European tour.

Wie, who has an endorsement contract with Omega, will be the second woman to compete on the European tour. Laura Davies finished next to last in ANZ Championship in Australia two years ago.

The European invitation gives Wie, who is finishing her junior year of high school in Honolulu, a global schedule against men and women. Her 2006 schedule now includes 14 tournaments — eight on the LPGA, three on the PGA Tour and one each on the Asian and European tours and Japanese PGA Tour.

Wie was tied for the lead going into the final round of the U.S. Women's Open last year at Cherry Hills, but crashed to an 82 and wound up tied for 23rd. The top 15 and ties are exempt the following year, meaning she either needed a special exemption or would have had to go through 36-hole qualifying.

Her second special exemption _ Wie also received one to the Women's Open in 2004 _ is sure to rankle some women. Morgan Pressel, who tied for second at Cherry Hills, said this year she felt Wie should have to qualify like any other player.

"I don't see why she shouldn't, or why should be afraid, or expect an exemption," Pressel said.

Wie has not missed the cut on the LPGA Tour since she was 13 in 2003, and she has five top fives in the majors, including a runner-up finish in the LPGA Championship and a tie for third in the Women's British Open last year.

Kelly Robbins also received a special exemption to the Women's Open. She lost in a three-way playoff in 2003 and finished third in 2004, but withdrew from the Women's Open last year with a back injury that kept her out most of the season.

AP golf writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this story.