Michelle Wie would be welcome to play in this year’s Open championship at St Andrews – according to several of the world’s leading players.
Wie could qualify to play at the Old Course after receiving an invitation to the John Deere Classic on the US Tour, which offers a place in the Open to the leading player not already exempt.
“Good luck to her,” was Colin Montgomerie’s response when asked for his reaction ahead of this week’s BMW Asian Open in Shanghai. “If someone has qualified like I had to last year then fine.
“If I had been battling against a woman and she beat me then fine, all credit to her. Provided it is not an invite, then fine.”
The entry form for this year’s championship begins with the words, “an entry will be accepted from any male professional golfer, or from a male amateur golfer whose playing handicap does not exceed scratch".
Although that stipulation will not officially be removed until next year’s event at Hoylake near Liverpool, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club concede Wie would probably be allowed to play if she qualified.
The 15-year-old has yet to make a halfway cut in her appearances on the men’s tour, although she only missed by one shot in the Sony Open in her native Hawaii last year.
Wie is also attempting to qualify for this year’s US Open at Pinehurst and Montgomerie added: “I played with Grace Park in the Tiger Skins two weekends ago and I was very impressed with her.
“She is quite happy doing her own thing amongst her own folk, so to speak, but Michelle Wie seems to have her own agenda.”
World number three Ernie Els, who has played practice rounds with Wie, also voiced no objections to the teenage sensation teeing it up alongside the men.
“That would make it interesting wouldn’t it?” the South African said. “I still say she is a better player than she was last year. She is getting stronger and I think she is swinging better.
“It’s not impossible for her to qualify, the only thing I am not sure about is the golf course at the John Deere. If it is a long, wet golf course she has no chance.
“She doesn’t carry the ball 290 yards and in the modern game a lot of the men carry it 290 now. If the place is firm I give her a good chance.”
England’s Paul Casey experienced at first hand the amount of interest Wie’s appearances in Hawaii have generated, and understands why sponsors are keen to invite her to play in their tournaments.
“I played in the same event as her in Hawaii earlier this year and she certainly brought in the crowds,” said Casey, winner of the TCL Classic in China earlier this season.
“It is a sponsor’s dream because it gets media attention and raises the profile of that event. I fully understand why they give her invites.
“I have been denied spots before when they would go to other players and you always think ‘it should have gone to me.’ But it is the sponsor’s choice.
“A lot of people will probably say she should play this tour or that tour but she is free to do whatever she wants really and if she gets that spot at the John Deere then that will have been bloody good playing.
“I don’t make the rules, I just try to beat as many people as I can every week and try not to beat myself.”
Six-times major winner Nick Faldo, who won at St Andrews in 1990, added: “If she’s good enough, she’s good enough, good luck to the girl.
“At 15 it’s awesome. At that age it’s incomprehensible. If you tee it up and earn your spot you can’t knock that at all, it’s as simple as that.
“I don’t think there has to be a male/female agenda on this. If you’re good enough to play that’s the whole thing about golf. There are no real freebies in golf, even if you’re given an invite to a tournament you still have to go and perform. We are a total performance-based sport because you are an individual.
“Fanny (Sunesson) caddied for her a few times and says it’s really easy. If it used to be a six-iron for me she gives her a seven! Fanny says it’s impressive. There are not many girls who can hit the ball with a bit of a fizz.”