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Teenager Wie makes solid start to South Korea bid

By Staff
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INCHEON, South Korea, May 4 (Reuters) Michelle Wie's bid to become the first woman to make the cut in a major men's tour event since 1945 got off to a solid start with a two-under-par 70 in the first round of the SK Telecom Open in Incheon today.

The 16-year-old American trailed clubhouse leader Adam Le Vesconte by five shots after the Australian fired an opening seven-under 65 in the Asian Tour event at the Sky 72 Golf Club to the west of Seoul.

Wie powered her opening drive past the efforts of her two male playing partners, and carded the first of four birdies in her round at her first hole, the 10th.

She made two long putts to save par and then birdied the 15th before running into trouble at the 17th when she hit water with her second shot and also landed in a fairway bunker on the sixth, bogeying both holes.

''It was a lot of fun today,'' Wie told reporters. ''The two par putts I made were pretty good. They were quite long.

Wie attracted a gallery of over 1,000 people while most of the other groupings received little attention.

Wie, despite her U.S. nationality, has overshadowed South Korean women players in popularity even as some have surged to LPGA Tour title success, while the Hawaiian has gone without a major title.

In the days leading up to the tournament Wie has been a staple on South Korean television, taking batting practice at a professional baseball match, speaking of her love for Korean food and holding golf clinics for children.

Four South Koreans have now tasted major success with Pak Se-ri getting the ball rolling in 1998 and Grace Park following suit at the 2004 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

The long-driving Wie will be bidding to make her first halfway cut in eight appearances against the men.

Wie, who regularly hits her drives over 300 yards, missed the cut by one stroke at the Casio World Open in Japan last November after bogeying the last two holes.

She is bidding to become the first female to make the final two rounds of a senior men's event since Babe Zaharias at the 1945 Los Angeles Open.

REUTERS PDS SSC1333

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