Wie circus leaving town

WES GILBERTSON

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

Japan's Ai Miyazato can now imagine what it's like to hit the road with Madonna as an opening act.

To drive the pace car for the Indianapolis 500.

To walk the red carpet a few steps ahead of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

For the first two days of the CN Canadian Women's Open, Miyazato played tag-along at Priddis Greens, one of the 'other' golfers in a group headlined by LPGA Tour superstar Michelle Wie.

Never mind that Miyazato finished seven strokes better than Wie through two rounds, there's no question the heavy-hitting Hawaiian was the star attraction.

"Even from a players' perspective, she has that charisma," Miyazato said through an interpreter. "She's almost like the poster-girl for the LPGA."

Unfortunately, the circus is leaving town.

Wie fired a 2-under 69 yesterday, but it wasn't enough to erase the damage done during a blustery opening round. The 19-year-old settled for a two-day total of 3-over 145, missing the cut for the first time this season.

That didn't seem to matter to the throng of fans that followed her step-for-step as she traversed the picturesque private track with Miyazato and South Korea's Eun-Hee Ji.

A few hundred people crowded around the ninth green early yesterday afternoon to watch as Norway's Suzann Pettersen bogeyed her final test of the round and headed back to the clubhouse with sole possession of the lead. Twenty minutes later, at least twice that many watched as Wie, needing an eagle to put herself in position to make the cut, splashed her second shot into a water hazard that guards the green, and made a club-slamming sulk up the fairway.

Wie didn't offer much explanation as she signed autographs for adoring fans after her round.

"A lot of putts weren't going in," she said. "It was just, um, unlucky."

She won't be sticking around for the weekend, so the fans that followed the Big Wiesy yesterday probably feel lucky they caught a glimpse before she skipped town.

Although her card is stamped 'rookie,' Wie is undoubtedly the biggest name in women's golf.

And she's starting to live up to her lofty billing. In 15 LPGA Tour appearances so far this season, she's recorded six Top-10 finishes, carded 36 rounds under par and earned US$583,182.

Not to mention winning over scores of fans.

"People are very excited to see her play," said defending Canadian Open champion Katherine Hull. "And I think it's great for women's golf."

Hull, Charlottetown's Lorie Kane and rising star Morgan Pressel played in front of Wie yesterday. The star-studded group that followed the teen included current money leader Cristie Kerr, Juli Inkster and Christina Kim.

Those names can draw crowds on their own. But if fan support was a statistical category, Wie would've been the clear winner yesterday.

Fine by them.

"It's always great to see huge crowds because our tour really deserves it," Kim said. "It's a fantastic product."

WES.GILBERTSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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