History was only an hour or so away, a handful of pars, an early-evening walk that could have signaled a new dawn in an old game.
History will have to wait. Michelle Wie, 15-going-on-legend, faltered down the stretch in the John Deere Classic Friday and failed to become the first woman in 60 years, since Babe Didrikson Zaharias, to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.
The accomplishment seemed increasingly likely with every confident stroke by Wie. With four holes to go at TPC at Deere Run, Wie, who started the day at 1 under, was 4 under, two shots in the clear. Then, it happened, a double-bogey on No. 6, her 15th hole of the day, and a bogey on No. 7. When her 14-foot birdie putt on No. 8 slipped by the edge, so did any realistic opportunity of making it into the weekend. She finished with an even-par 71, missing the cut by two strokes. This was her third attempt against PGA Tour players. She also came up short the Sony Open in 2004 and '05 in her native Hawaii.
"I was shooting so well and then the two holes just kind of [hurt me]," said Wie, who also would have become the second-youngest player in tour history to make the cut. In the 1957 Canadian Open, Bob Panasik was 15 years 8 months 20 days, only seven days younger than Wie.
The sixth hole inflicted the most damage. Wie found the bunker left of the fairway for the second straight day. Her approach landed in another bunker in front of the green. After blasting out to within 20 feet, she was too aggressive with her par attempt and missed a five-footer coming back. Suddenly, she needed a birdie but, on the par-3 seventh, she pushed her iron shot to the right and could not get up and down.
"Even though I played great the front nine," said Wie, who was playing on a sponsor's exemption, "I just have to start all over and play great [on] the back nine, too, and that's not what I did today."
Her target score for the day was 68. Early in her round, it looked like she would attain it, if not go even lower. A wedge to within three feet on No. 10 resulted in an opening birdie. On the 215-yard, par-3 No. 12, after going in the rough left of the green, she pitched in for another. On No. 14, she made a 13-footer for her third birdie in five holes. The cut? Wie was, suddenly, moving up the leader board.
She bogeyed No. 15 but made up for it with a 7-iron on No. 18 to tap-in range. The crowd, which was huge and supportive throughout the day, gave her a tremendous ovation. More importantly, the 3-under 33 put her in excellent position to play another two days. For the second straight round, Wie, paired with Nick Watney and Scott Gutschewski, played magnificently on Deere Run's back nine.
Unfortunately, the front was another story. On Thursday, she could do no better than a 1-over 36. This time, with the difficulties on Nos. 6 and 7, she shot a 38.
"When I was playing the practice rounds, it seemed like the front nine were the birdie holes and the back nine were the par holes," Wie said.
Along with the disappointment, there seemed to be a sense of satisfaction. Until the late miscues, she was right there and she surely knows she will be right there again. She was long off the tee and displayed touch around the greens.
"I feel like my game is a lot more consistent," Wie said. "I feel like I'm in the control room pressing the buttons now."
Wie, who will play in next week's U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Shaker Run Golf Club in Lebanon, Ohio, is optimistic about her chances against a new group of men. "After seeing that I shot under par here," she said, "it feels that I can really compete there, and if I can get to match play, it's a toss-up from there."
Before the next challenge, there is the next movie. Wie wants to see "Fantastic Four."
She is, after all, only 15.