-- Her final-round collapse at the U.S. Women's Open is long gone, one pursuit of history quickly replaced by another. Michelle Wie, 15, is going after the PGA players again.
"I feel like I have nothing to lose," said Wie, who will tee it in this week's John Deere Classic at TPC at Deere Run. "Basically, I'm the underdog here."
Wie is also the headliner, her presence transforming a run-of-the-mill PGA Tour stop into a real happening. She is attempting to become the first woman to make the cut in a men's professional golf tournament since Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1945. Wie came up short in her first two tries, the 2004 and 2005 Sony Open in Hawaii. Annika Sorenstam missed the cut in her much-celebrated appearance at the 2003 Colonial, and Suzy Whaley failed months later at the Greater Hartford Open.
"I think I'm a lot more consistent with my game than the Sony," Wie said during a news conference Tuesday. "I didn't really know what to expect. It was kind of really new for me. Now it's my third one, and hopefully, I feel a lot more comfortable here."
The last month has been busy for Wie, who left her Hawaii home in late May and won't return until late August. In early June, she played magnificently in finishing second, three strokes behind Sorenstam, at the LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace, Md. She was the only player in the field to break par in every round. In the U.S. Women's Open two weeks ago, Wie was tied for the lead entering the final round, but finished with an 82. She seems, however, to have put Cherry Hills behind her.
"Two words explain the last day: bad luck," Wie said. "It wasn't like I played horrible. I did hit a few mis-shots, but it happens in every round. But the few mis-shots that I had turned out to be disastrous."
As usual, there is not universal agreement that she belongs in the field. Wie, who received a sponsor's exemption, handled the matter with her usual ease.
"I don't really pay attention to them," she said. "I know they're always going to be there, and there are some people that are always against me. But, you know, I just have to realize that I'm having a lot of fun, and this is what I want to do and I'm not going to stop just for them."
One player on her side is Zach Johnson, who played a practice round Tuesday with Wie, Craig Bowden and Aaron Baddeley.
"I just think it's a win-win situation on both the Wie side and the tournament side, through and through," Johnson said. "It's going to help the charities a ton, ticket sales."
Johnson said he believes she can make the cut and even be in contention, which would give her an outside shot of qualifying for next week's British Open. This week's low finisher not otherwise exempt from the Open receives an invitation.
"I think her game is pretty scary," Johnson said. "She's hitting a 4-iron from 210 yards, and I didn't do that until probably last week, it seemed like. It's unbelievable."
Wie, who played the course Friday, said it differs from Waialae Country Club, site of the Sony Open. "Waialae is very sneaky, very tricky, where this golf course is pretty straightforward," she said. The course features generous fairways, she added, and is not especially long.
In the first two rounds, Wie will be paired with Nick Watney and Scott Gutschewski. She has a target score in mind, although, being superstitious, she wouldn't reveal it.
"Of course, I have to play very well to make the cut," she said. "But I think if I focus on just making the cut, then it'll be harder to do."
For Wie, competing against men has been part of the plan for a long time. Next week she'll do it again, teeing it up in the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in Lebanon, Ohio.
"In the long run, I do want to play out here," Wie said. "It's very exciting, and ever since I was very young, I wanted to play with the guys. I had a choice of playing softball and baseball. I played baseball."