1. Archive

Wie, 15, and Kite, 55, spread out Sony field

Depth on the PGA Tour takes on a new meaning at the Sony Open.

On the far left end of the practice range at Waialae Country Club, 15-year-old Michelle Wie was making a crisp sound with every iron she struck, getting ready for her annual practice round with Ernie Els.

A short time later, 55-year-old Tom Kite arrived and began hitting balls from the same spot. Kite has spent the last five years primarily on the Champions Tour, but wanted to take one more crack at the kids.

A 10th-grade girl wasn't what he had in mind.

"It's amazing how the sport has changed," Kite said.

The tour shifts gears today, going from a winners-only field at the Mercedes Championships to the first full-field event of the year at the Sony Open.

It could have been billed as "Three Old Men and a Little Lady," but that was before 53-year-old Dick Mast earned one of the four spots from Monday qualifying, putting him in the field at Waialae along with fellow Champions Tour players Kite, Craig Stadler and Peter Jacobsen.

Vijay Singh gives the Sony Open a No. 1 presence for the first time since the world rankings began in 1986.

Els could give the tournament its first three-peat champion. The South African has won the last two years in a playoff.

The field also includes Retief Goosen, Stewart Cink, Adam Scott and David Toms.

Still, the focus for at least the first two days is on Wie. Ryan Palmer played with her last week in the Mercedes Championships pro-am and came away with this impression:

"If you're not watching her and just listening, it sounds like one of us out here."

Wie has more PGA Tour experience than five men in the field _ Justin Bolli, Matt Davidson, Sean O'Hair, Euan Walters and Rob Rashell, all of whom are tour rookies.

Expectations of her are higher.

A year ago, the teen prodigy knocked in a few putts from here to Kauai, shot 68 and missed the cut by one shot. Even so, it was the best score ever by a female competing on a men's tour.

Her goal this year is to play all four rounds, and the ultimate would be a top-20 finish.

Wie already has played about a dozen practice rounds at Waialae, never worse than 75 and twice at 66. Her stroke average at Waialae in the months leading up to the Sony Open is 1{ shots fewer than it was last year.