Michelle Wie blasted out of one of the two bunkers she landed in on No. 18 yesterday on her way to a bogey that left her at 2-under 70 after the first round. Wie finished the round six strokes behind leader Annika Sorenstam in a tie for 12th place.
Wie closer to British Open
The Royal & Ancient Golf Club announces that women will be able to qualify for the men’s major
DESERT SPRINGS, Calif. » Minutes after Michelle Wie finished her first round as a professional at an LPGA event, talk returned to the idea of the Honolulu 16-year-old playing with men in a major championship.
In an interesting bit of timing, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club announced yesterday that women will be allowed to attempt to qualify for the British Open for the first time in the tournament's history. The top five finishers (plus ties) in the four women's majors will be allowed to play in regional qualifying tournaments.
"I am delighted that a qualification route has now been established for the best women players to gain access to the championship," R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson said in a statement.
So is Wie, who shot a 2-under par 70 yesterday in the Samsung World Championship at Bighorn, putting her in a tie for 12th place.
Her third-place finish in the last women's British Open qualifies her for qualifying.
"It's great that they opened it up," Wie said. "Hopefully, I will be able to try for it."
Wie would have qualified for the last British Open if she had won the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic in July. She failed to make the cut, and also didn't make it at the other two PGA Tour events she entered, the 2004 and 2005 Sony Opens.
Annika Sorenstam -- the undisputed top female golfer and Samsung defending champion and first-round leader -- has also played in a men's tour event, the 2003 Colonial Open (she failed to make the cut). But she was less excited about the idea of playing in the British Open than Wie.
"I don't think it would be something I'm interested in," she said. "But who knows? If they're playing a really neat golf course I never get a chance to, I might have to."
Cristie Kerr, who was one shot behind Sorenstam at 7-under 65 after the first round yesterday, said she would have to hit the weights before considering a run at the British Open.
"Before I would entertain that I probably would have to put 10 pounds of muscle on my frame and hit it about 15 yards longer," said Kerr, who averaged 234.5 yards per drive yesterday. "But I think it would be fun. What's the harm, really? Michelle has been playing in PGA Tour events. Annika has done it."
Michelle Wie is eligible to qualify for the British Open.
Kerr was a good playing partner for Wie in her pro debut.
Kerr, who turned 28 on Wednesday (a day after Wie turned 16), didn't have as much fanfare when she turned pro in 1996, right out of high school. But she has empathy for Wie.
"I'm always going to be there for her if she needs any help, advice," Kerr said. "I didn't have anybody my own age to hang out with when I first came out on tour. ... and I just feel for what she is going through. I don't think most people realize how much pressure it really is on her. And I think she is doing just fine."
Kerr did fine herself yesterday. She birdied four of the first five holes, and her approach shots were deadly throughout the round. Six of her seven birdies were the result of wedges and irons to within 5 feet of the hole.
Kerr scolded photographers early in the round for moving around while she was trying to set up her tee shot, and a cell phone rang at the No. 8 tee when she was getting ready to hit.
"You are not supposed to have cell phones on," she said. "It's amazing so many people don't actually adhere to it."
But she didn't let it get to her.
"She is such a fun player to play with," said Wie, who has played with Kerr previously in practice rounds. "She was playing really great."
The Champ: Sorenstam said she wishes Wie well, but bristled a bit at yet another question about the phenom's impact on her own status as the queen of the links.
"Honestly, I don't feel like I'm here to prove anything. I'm here to play golf because I enjoy it," Sorenstam said, when asked if Wie's debut motivates her. "I know where I'm at on the money list (first). ... I'm here to reach my own goals, play my own golf. ... I see it as an opportunity for me ... to win this tournament for the fifth time. I see this opportunity to increase my lead on the money list and be player of the year."
In the crowd: Phil Knight of Nike showed up to see his investment in action, something he did not do when Tiger Woods made his debut.
Wie's parents, B.J. and Bo, and Wie's instructor, David Leadbetter, were also in the gallery, as well as representatives from Sony and the William Morris Agency, other companies that have Wie under contract.
And actors Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn took a peek at the action from their home adjacent to the No. 3 fairway.
Overheard: Wie really is an advertising goldmine, or someone just has a wry sense of humor judging from this conversation among spectators alongside the 10th fairway:
Woman: "She's drinking a soda."
Man: "Tell me what brand. I'll buy one."