RENO, Nev. (AP) — Michelle Wie has heard the criticism of her decision to play in the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open this week instead of attempting to qualify for the Women’s British Open.
Like most teenagers, the 18-year-old just wants to have a good time. She isn’t worried about what Annika Sorenstam and other top LPGA players think of her decision, either.
“There are going to be criticisms entering this tournament, but at the same time I’m just doing what I feel like I want to do and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Wie said.
Reno sports books have made Wie a 500-1 long shot in the second-tier tournament, which opens Thursday. They aren’t her only doubters.
Sorenstam, who failed to make the cut in her only PGA appearance, said at the Women’s British Open earlier this week that if Wie can’t qualify for a women’s major, she has no business playing with the men.
David Leadbetter, who has worked with Wie for years, blamed her family for making bad choices and said she has more to lose than gain by playing at Reno this week.
David Duval, who has shown signs of regaining some of the form that won him the 2001 British Open, said Wie’s playing on the PGA Tour “has never bothered me in the least.”
“The novelty of it seemingly is wearing off a little bit, but you know, more power to her if she wants to try it,” Duval said Wednesday. “I don’t know if the PGA Tour is exactly the place to gain confidence. You can get your head beat in pretty easy out here.”
But Wie said she doesn’t care that some are critical of her decision to accept a special exemption to play at the event while the top 50 men are playing at the World Golf Championships in Ohio.
This will be Wie’s eighth time on the PGA Tour. She has missed each cut and has only made money playing against men on the Korean Tour at the 2006 SK Telcom Open.
“All I’m thinking about is trying to play some good golf. How can I limit the number of bogeys I make? How can I maximize the number of birdies I can make out of this golf course and that’s all I can focus on. I can’t focus on the rest of the field,” she said.
“People are going to write hateful stuff about me and that’s fine with me. … Good rounds and low scores can solve everything.”
Tournament director Michael Stearns said Wie and her family turned down several invitations to play the tournament before finally accepting late last month.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” he said. “I happen to believe she’s a great player. Who’s on the list here who won a [women’s] U.S. Publinks at age 13?”
Ben Crane, the highest ranked player in the Reno field at 87th, thinks the Montreux Golf & Country Club’s 7,472-yard course through towering pines and mountain streams fits Wie’s game.
“You have to hit it high and far. I’ve watched her and she certainly does both of those,” said Scott McCarron, who is based at the club.
Wie admitted to reporters that she still gets butterflies before PGA events, but is excited about the opportunity.
“It’s almost like right before you go on a roller coaster — like kind of half scared, half really excited, knowing everything is going to be all right,” Wie said.