Michelle Wie talked to reporters yesterday at the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Golf Tournament.
Wie ready for first major as pro player
The Hawaii teen is set for the LPGA Tour's opening major of the season
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. » It didn't dawn on Michelle Wie that she was playing her first major tournament as a professional until yesterday morning when she was on the opening tee of the pro-am at this week's Kraft Nabisco Championship.
As an amateur, Wie already has two top-10 finishes here in three appearances at the LPGA Tour's opening major of the season, including playing in the final group on a Sunday with world No. 1 Annika Sorenstam at the ripe, old age of 13.
But as she waited to hit away at wind-swept Mission Hills Country Club, the announcer at the first tee let the 16-year-old know that she's playing for keeps these days. And that realization was all right by Wie.
"I didn't realize it was my first major as a professional," Wie said to a packed media room after finishing her pro-am round. "I was on the first tee in the pro-am and they read that little card that says what your achievements are and stuff like that, and he said she is playing in her first major as a professional. And I was thinking, 'Oh, really, that's really cool.'"
Fortunately for Wie, the IRS gently reminded her as well.
"When I registered, I got my tax form," Wie said. "And I was like, 'What's that?' It came back to me slowly (that she did turn pro last fall and will now be paid if she survives the cut). I'm excited about being in this event."
Judging by the 400 media members keeping tabs of Wie's whereabouts, they are curious to see how she plays under the pressure of turning pro as well.
It's one thing to knock it about as an amateur when expectations are minimal, quite another when a paycheck is involved.
The last time Wie played in the Mojave, she was disqualified at the Samsung World Championship at the Bighorn Golf Club in October just up I-10 in Palm Desert, Calif. But Wie atoned for that mistake, somewhat, by finishing third at last month's Fields Open in Hawaii, moving her to No. 2 in the world behind only Sorenstam.
This is the second of eight LPGA events for Wie this year as she tries to live up to that ranking with Sorenstam in the field. The junior at Punahou School plans to play in the other three LPGA grand slam events, as well as try her luck on the PGA Tour again this summer.
"I want to play in a couple of PGA tournaments over the summer and the last part of the year," Wie said. "So, I'll play in the John Deere (for the second time). I'm not really sure what else."
It's possible Wie will also attempt to become the first woman to make a cut in a PGA Tour event since 1945, at the Reno-Tahoe tournament in August.
Wie has failed to play through to the weekend in three attempts at the Sony Open in Hawaii and at last year's John Deere.
But it's this penchant for wanting to play with the men that has left many on the LPGA Tour shaking their heads in wonder. Wie not only wants to compete with the men, she also believes she can play well enough on the PGA to qualify for the Masters.
"I want to get into a really good college and play on the PGA, play in the Masters, which is my lifelong dream to play there, and to win a couple of tournaments on the LPGA, just be a better person, better player overall," Wie said when asked of her goals. "Every year, I just want to see myself improve."
As usual, this remark raised a few eyebrows around the room, prompting a reporter to ask her about the criticism she receives for not wanting to win every LPGA event first.
"I don't think it's right to criticize someone for what they believe in," Wie said. "Obviously, I do want to win everything when I come out here (on the LPGA Tour), but I just don't want to put that much pressure on myself.
"I'm here to have fun, to play well, to win. That's what I'm all about."
Wie tees it up tomorrow at 8:24 a.m. (PST) with fellow first-year sensation Ai Miyazato of Okinawa. Considering the number of Japanese media following Miyazato in her first tour of duty on the LPGA, there might not be enough room on the course to handle the entourage. For Wie, it's all about doing well. She finished ninth here in 2003, fourth in 2004 and 14th last year.
"I feel like I've gotten a little bit more mature and a little bit more realistic with myself," Wie said since she first played here as a 13-year-old. "I feel like I'm trying to play smarter and hopefully, I'm doing it. I'm looking forward to see how I do here as a pro."