Wie steals Vijay’s thunder

HONOLULU: Although world number two Vijay Singh defends his title at this week’s Sony Open, the biggest storyline at Waialae Country Club is the latest chapter in the long-running Michelle Wie show. 

The 16-year-old Honolulu schoolgirl, playing alongside the men this week for the seventh time, will be bidding to become the first woman in 61 years to make the cut in a PGA Tour event. 

Babe Zaharias made the 36-hole cut at the 1945 Los Angeles Open. 

“I think a lot of people have high expectations of me, but I have high expectations of myself,” a smiling Wie told a news conference on Tuesday. 

“This my third time playing here (at the Sony Open) and I have a lot of experience about playing here the last two years. 

HERE WIE GO: Michelle Wie chips out of a bunker on the 12th hole during a practice round on Tuesday inpreparation for today’s Sony Open in Oahu, Hawaii. – REUTERSpic

“Playing my first PGA Tour event as a professional, I am starting to feel the difference,” added Wie, who joined the paid ranks last October after signing endorsement deals with Nike and Sony believed to be worth US$10mil a year. 

“I am like: ‘Wow, I am one of them now, sort of. I am actually a professional.’ It is quite amazing. 

“I think I have gotten used to the media and all the hype around me playing in a men’s event. Playing alongside them, I have learned a lot. 

“In a sense, I know what to expect. This year, I am trying to take it easy and feel my way around. I just want to have fun.” 

Fun will be low on Vijay’s agenda this week as he bids to go one better than his play-off loss to Australia’s Stuart Appleby at the PGA Tour’s season-opening Mercedes Championships in Kapalua on Sunday. 

The easy-swinging Fijian charged into contention with a final-round 66 at the Plantation Course, before missing a birdie putt from nine feet at the first extra hole. 

“It wasn’t good enough, that’s all I can say about that,” he said at Kapalua. “I did everything good except make one more putt. 

“But I can’t complain about the way I played, the way I finished. I’m playing well and I’m feeling good about my game. I’ll try again at the Sony.” 

Vijay, who won last year’s tournament by a stroke from Ernie Els after closing with a five-under 65, is one of only five players in the world’s top 20 at the 7,060-yard Waialae Country club this week. 

Seventh-ranked Jim Furyk, world number eight Adam Scott, Kenny Perry (14) and David Toms (16) are scheduled to tee off in today’s opening round in the first full-field event of the year. 

Among the notable absentees are top-ranked Tiger Woods, US PGA champion Phil Mickelson, twice winner Ernie Els and world number four Retief Goosen. 

US Masters and British Open champion Woods is spending time with his family until making his debut on the 2006 PGA Tour at the Buick Invitational in two weeks’ time. 

Mickelson has never played in the Hawaiian event while South Africans Els and Goosen have opted to stay at home this week. – Reuters  

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