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Wie Sends A Statement

By Dave Shedloski

South Hadley, Mass. - She didn't quite reach her goal for the day, and she didn't have her A-game, but amateur sensation Michelle Wie still managed to send a message to any of her critics who claimed she didn't deserve an exemption to the 59th U.S. Women's Open.

With an eagle on the ninth hole, her final hole of the day, Wie on Friday shot an even-par 71 at The Orchards Golf Club to keep herself in the mix of contention - not to mention conversation. Despite struggling with her driver for much of the day, the 14-year-old from Honolulu ripped a 300-plus yard drive that reminded everyone why she's so closely watched. Wie followed with a 220-yard 5-wood that stopped 9 feet from the hole, and she calmly drained the putt to complete an up-and-down day in her second start in the Women's Open.

"I think I'll eat lunch better," Wie said after posting her best score in five rounds in the national open. "You feel better after playing that bad and having that eagle."

Michelle Wie surveys the lay of the land with her father, B.J. Wie, in the background. It's the first time her father is caddieing for her since last year's Open. (Sam Greenwood/USGA)

Wie's goal at the start of the day was to break par on the 6,473-yard layout designed by famed architect Donald Ross. She was 1 under after making a 45-foot birdie at the third hole, but a pulled tee shot into the trees at the par-3 fifth forcing her to take an unplayable lie and re-tee, leading to a double bogey. A bogey at No. 8 put her 2 over and in a most disagreeable disposition.

"I was hitting the driver bad all day (but) I felt that one coming," said Wie, who had her father, B.J. Wie, caddie for her for the first time since last year's Open. "I felt that was in me and I had to get it out, and I did. I just took a lot of stress out of it. I felt really good after I hit that shot; it was better than punching your bag."

Wie has taken a few jabs since she received her special exemption into this championship. Her score may have quieted some of the critics, though she couldn't say for sure.

"I think that if I shot 4 under, it really would have kicked them in the butt," she said. "I think even par is pretty good. It could have been a lot worse, and that eagle really got me on the right foot for [Friday]."

Wie, who hit seven fairways and 13 greens, has learned quite a bit since her first Open experience. "Last year I was more nervous. I didn't know what to expect," she said. "I think my goal was ridiculous last year. I was trying to shoot 4 under everyday. I know on the U.S. Open type courses . even par is a really good score."

It helps that her father has returned to the bag. Rather than pick up a caddie for one week who is unfamiliar with her game, Wie asked her dad to carry the load. He also takes a load off.

"He knows my game a lot; he knows my temper," Wie said. "He knows everything about me. I feel a lot more comfortable with him out there, and it's been really great."

Dave Shedloski is a free-lance writer whose work has appeared previously on www.uswomensopen.com.