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Teen misses PGA Tour cut by two strokes

SILVIS, Ill. -- Michelle Wie had the number she wanted,
proclaimed to everyone on that sparkly buckle on her turquoise
belt, and a historic finish was just four holes away.

After one ill-timed three putt and a stray tee shot, though, she
went from historic to just plain history.

On the brink of becoming the first woman in 60 years to make a
cut on the PGA Tour, the 15-year-old from Hawaii was out after
finding big trouble on two of her last four holes in the John Deere
Classic. She missed the cut by two strokes, shooting an even-par 71
Friday that put her at 1 under for the tournament.

"It was pretty killer," she said. "Even though I finished
below par, it still feels [bad] because I played so well the first
nine and then I just totally messed up the back nine."

Wie was trying to become the first woman since Babe Didrikson
Zaharias in 1945 to make a PGA Tour cut, and she was on track to do
it with room to spare after making the turn at 4 under. But she
came apart in stunning fashion, dropping three strokes on Nos. 6
and 7, and then missing a last-chance birdie putt on No. 8.

As she walked off No. 9, her final hole, disappointment was
etched across her face.

"It was a great experience," said her father, B.J. Wie.
"Obviously we're disappointed. Michelle's disappointed. But it was
a great experience and she's got to experience all things in
golf."

J.L. Lewis, the 1999 winner, followed his opening 64 with a 65
to take the lead at 13-under 129. Shigeki Maruyama (63) and Hunter
Mahan (68) were second at 11 under. Wie tied for 88th.

"She played very well. Good putter, very good short game,"
said Scott Gutschewski, one of Wie's playing partners. "I was very
impressed with her short game, and she hits the ball straight. So a
pretty good combination for 15."

Wie played well beyond her years all week, but her inexperience
caught up to her in those last four holes.

She ran into trouble on No. 6, when she put her first two shots
in bunkers. She still had a chance for par, getting within 20 feet
of the cup. But her first putt ran alongside the left edge and
refused to drop, rolling about 5 feet by. She missed that one by
inches, too, and had to take a double bogey, her first of the week.

"I guess I was too aggressive with my putt," she said. "I
hadn't made a bogey, and I didn't want to. It felt like a
straightforward putt. If I'd hit it a little softer, it would have
gone in."

The double bogey dropped her to 2 under, with more trouble to
come.

She pushed her tee shot on No. 7 so far right it bounced on the
cart path. She got on the green from 35 yards out, but two-putted
for another bogey, all but ending her chances for the weekend.
When her 14-foot birdie putt on No. 8 skirted the edge of the
cup, the teenager from Hawaii sank to her knees. When she stood up,
she looked skyward in disbelief.

"I just really realized how important the last six holes are,"
she said. "I'll just have to notice that it's really important and
tighten my screws up a little bit."

And there will be a next time. Though B.J. Wie said his daughter
doesn't have any other PGA Tour appearances scheduled, her
long-term goal is to play with the men. She's already played the
Sony Open twice, missing the cut by a stroke in 2004. She missed
the cut by seven strokes this year.

Wie is playing in the men's U.S. Amateur Public Links next week
at Shaker Run in Lebanon, Ohio.

"On the LPGA Tour, I made the cut on my fourth try," she said.
"My fourth try [on the PGA Tour] is coming up, so I'm really
looking forward to that."

A 1-under 70 in the first round put her a stroke over the
projected cut, and Wie came out Friday looking determined to make
up ground. She even wore a belt with a sparkly black "68" on the
buckle, the number she wanted to shoot.

"I got it in France," she said. "I thought it was a really
cool number."

She got off to a quick start, with birdies on two of her first
three holes, including a spectacular chip shot on the par-3 No. 12.
Her tee shot sailed off to the left, and it bounced once before
smacking spectator Gene Lebo on the right leg above the knee.

"It wasn't getting past me," joked Lebo, who was wearing,
appropriately enough, a Hawaiian shirt. "I played linebacker so I
know how to keep the ball in the field."

The ball dropped into the first row of the gallery about 40 feet
from the green, but it would have been a lot farther had Lebo's leg
not gotten in the way. Wie still had a tough shot, with her ball in
deep grass.

But she chipped on, and when the ball rolled slowly into the
hole, Wie thrust both of her arms triumphantly in the air before
slapping hands with her caddie.

"If [Lebo] is reading the newspaper, I want to say, 'Thank
you,' and sorry for your pain," she said. "It turned out great."

She made the turn at 4 under after coming within 6 inches of the
cup from 161 yards out on 18. The crowd of 10,000 greeted her with
a standing ovation, and she acknowledged them with a couple of
waves.

After tapping in for the birdie, a male fan yelled out, "I love
you Michelle!" Wie turned and looked, laughing as she scanned the
crowd.

But she wasn't laughing a few hours later.

"Definitely I'll care," she said. "But I won't cry."