Wie stands tall with PGA elders
The high school sophomore will go against senior citizens at the Sony Open.
HONOLULU (AP) -- Depth on the PGA Tour takes on a new meaning at the Sony Open.
On the far left end of the practice range at Waialae Country Club, 15-year-old Michelle Wie was making a crisp sound with every iron she struck, getting ready for her annual practice round with Ernie Els.
A short time later, 55-year-old Tom Kite arrived and began hitting balls from the same spot. Kite has spent the past five years primarily on the Champions Tour, but wanted to take one more crack at the kids.
A 10th-grade girl wasn't what he had in mind.
"It's amazing how the sport has changed," Kite said.
The tour shifts gears starting today, going from a winners-only field at the Mercedes Championships to the first full-field event of the year at the Sony Open.
Focus on the kid
It could have been billed as "Three Old Men and a Little Lady," but that was before 53-year-old Dick Mast earned one of the four spots from Monday qualifying, putting him in the field at Waialae along with fellow Champions Tour players Kite, Craig Stadler and Peter Jacobsen.
Vijay Singh gives the Sony Open a No. 1 presence for the first time since the world rankings began in 1986.
Els could give the tournament its first three-peat champion. The 35-year-old South African has won the past two years in a playoff, over Harrison Frazar last year and Aaron Baddeley in 2003.
The field also includes Retief Goosen, Stewart Cink, Adam Scott and David Toms.
Still, the focus for at least the first two days is on a 15-year-old girl who stands about 6 feet tall, wears hoop earrings and can rip it.
Ryan Palmer played with Wie last week in the Mercedes Championships pro-am and came with this impression: "If you're not watching her and just listening, it sounds like one of us out here."
Will familiarity breed success?
Wie has more PGA Tour experience than five men in the field -- Justin Bolli, Matt Davidson, Sean O'Hair, Euan Walters and Rob Rashell, all of whom are tour rookies.
Expectations of her are higher.
A year ago, she shot a 2-under par 68 in the second round for a two-day total of even-par 140 and missed the cut by one shot. Even so, it was the best score ever by a female competing on a men's tour.
Her goal this year is to play all four rounds, and the ultimate would be a top-20 finish.
Wie already has played about a dozen practice rounds at Waialae, never worse than 75 and twice at 66. Her stroke average at Waialae in the months leading up to the Sony Open is 11/2 shots fewer than it was last year.
But she remains realistic.
"People always expect that if you're so close, then you definitely should make the cut this year," she said. "But it has a lot to do with luck and the way you're playing that day. And hopefully, I'll catch a good day."
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