I didn't know how
to take it when I found out that I'd be playing with Michelle Wie in the U.S.
Open sectional qualifier on June 5 at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J.
On one hand I thought, Hey, this is pretty cool. I'll have a chance to watch a
16-year-old kid try to make history by becoming the first woman ever to qualify
for a men's major. Another part of me wanted to groan. Sad though I am to say
it, playing with Michelle will probably make earning a spot in this year's Open
that much tougher for me.
I'm no stranger
to high-profile events. Before I took my present job--I'm the head pro at
Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton, N.Y.--I played on the European tour for 10
years. I've also appeared in five majors, including the 2000 U.S. Open at
Pebble Beach, where I finished 46th. And I know what it's like to play under
pressure. My partner, Mark Mielke, and I were the runners-up in last summer's
Big Stakes Match Play championship, in which the difference between first and
second was $2.3 million.
But the qualifier
will be a different story. It has the potential to be a circus, with all the
fans, officials and media focused on our group. It's not easy to survive this
kind of test in the first place. Thirty-six holes in one day is no picnic. And
in New Jersey there will be up to 156 of us--including PGA Tour pros Billy
Andrade, Bernhard Langer and Mark O'Meara--competing for only 22 spots. In
qualifiers with these kinds of odds, I'm about 1 for 6. That's not great, but
it's not bad either. Jesper Parnevik, an old friend, has never made it into a
U.S. Open through a qualifier, although he has tried a couple times. He's only
gotten in on exemptions.
Word is that the
USGA intentionally paired David Gossett--a former U.S. Amateur champion who has
won on Tour--and myself with Michelle because of our experience with crowds.
Fair enough. But on that basis, wouldn't Langer and O'Meara have been better
candidates? One day I'll have to ask USGA executive director David Fay why I
Not that I'm
complaining. I'm dying to watch Michelle play. Over the years I've only seen
her hit about five shots, all on TV. People are just now filling me in on how
she qualified for the men's U.S. Public Links last summer and how she made a
cut last month on the men's Asian tour. I'm eager to ask her why she's so
determined to play against men.
I'll have plenty
of time to do it--I'll be out there with her for eight or nine hours. Just
David, Michelle and I, and a few hundred fans, friends, officials, reporters
and camera crews.