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Wie puts aside US Open disappointment for major challenge

Written by: Staff

HAVRE DE GRACE, Maryland, June 7 (Reuters) A day after missing out on qualification for the US Open, Michelle Wie was looking forward to the challenge of trying to win a first major title among her peers on the LPGA Tour.

The 16-year-old American will be one of the favourites for the LPGA Championships starting on Thursday at Bulle Rock Golf course in Maryland, where she finished runner-up to Annika Sorenstam a year ago.

Wie has since added to her major credentials by finishing tied third in the Women's British Open and this year's Kraft Nabisco Championship. She was also third in a regular LPGA tournament in her native Hawaii at the start of the season.

''I felt like I was 80 years-old when I woke up this morning,'' said Wie, a day after she shot 68-75 to miss by five shots surviving the 36-hole US Open qualifying test.

''I was a little stiff, but I'll be fine. I don't really feel tired, just sore, and I'm so excited to be back here and looking forward to a great week,'' she added. ''Playing yesterday was a lot of fun and now I'm even more motivated to do well this week.

''I think it helped me playing 36 holes yesterday. Now playing 18 holes over four days will be a breeze. The Open qualifying course was wet and playing very long so this week might seem a little easier.'' HUGE FOLLOWING Wie had a huge following at the qualifying at Canoe Brook in Summit, New Jersey, and there was a packed audience listening to her every word at tbe news conference.

''I have no idea why people are fascinated by me,'' she said.

''I'm just being me. But it's pretty cool having so many people cheering for you. As soon as I finished yesterday, I got loads of text messages from my friends and a lot of fellow players.'' The teenager has attracted criticism for continuing her quest to take on the men, and of her ultimate dream of one day paying regularly on the PGA Tour and qualifying for the Masters at Augusta.

But does she not feel that she has some responsibility to concentrate more on playing on the LPGA Tour and helping to promote the women's game? ''No, I don't think it is my responsibility,'' she said. ''One of my goals is to win an LPGA tournaments, but I'm just paying wherever I want to play, be it the LPGA, PGA, European or Asian Tours.'' Last year, as an amateur, Wie finished two shots behind Sorenstam in the LPGA Championship, and she reckons her game has improved a great deal since.

''I've become more mature as a person and my game has become much more consistent,'' said the youngster who has five top-10s from just nine women's majors. ''I can control my shots and my mind a lot better.

''Playing here today a lot of great memories came flooding back and I know it is going to be an exciting week.'' Reuters AY GC1046

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