KOCHI, Japan (AP) – Nervous at the start but encouraged by a couple of late birdies, Michelle Wie was five strokes off the lead in a men’s tournament Thursday and optimistic about making the cut.

The 16-year-old Hawaiian was followed by huge galleries during her opening round of 1-over 73 at the Casio World Open on the Japanese tour.

She had an uneven beginning with three bogeys on the Kochi Kuroshio Country Club course. Wie, who teed off from the 10th hole, regrouped with birdies on the sixth and seventh holes.

“Coming back like that will give me confidence for tomorrow,” she said. “It’s good to know I can do that even when I’m not playing that well.”

Two Japanese players, Toshimitsu Izawa and Yoshiaki Kimura, shared the lead at 68.

Wie, only the second woman to play in a Japanese men’s event, clearly was the big draw. Defending champion David Smail, by contrast, was followed by only a handful of spectators.

The $1.7 million tournament, the next-to-last event on the Japanese men’s tour, is Wie’s first since she was disqualified last month in her pro debut.

“I felt a little nervous off the tee,” Wie said. “But being nervous like that can be a good thing.”

Wie is making her sixth start in a men’s professional tournament. She failed to make the cut in three PGA Tour starts, a Nationwide Tour event and a Canadian Tour event. This is her first tournament in Japan.

“I wanted to be a little higher,” she said. “But considering how I struggled in the middle I’m pretty happy with the round I had. Hopefully, I can come back tomorrow and play a better round.”

Sophie Gustafson missed the cut in the 2003 Casio tournament, the only other time a female player has appeared in a top Japanese men’s tour event.

Wie said she will have to play better to make the cut.

“Hopefully, I can come back tomorrow and play better,” she said. “If I can make a couple of more putts and keep hitting the fairways I should be fine.”

Playing in a group with Japanese veterans Taichi Teshima and Shinichi Yokota, Wie bogeyed the par-4 16th hole when she three-putted.

Because of a backlog of players, Wie had to wait 40 minutes after her first nine holes. She then missed a couple of putts on Nos. 2 and 3 to go 3 over.

“I never had to wait like that before,” Wie said. “I missed a couple of 4- or 5-foot putts that I should have made.”

She finally got going on the par-4 sixth hole when she drained a 4-foot birdie putt. On the par-5 No. 7, she drove into the rough but blasted out with a 5-wood and then hit a sand wedge to 4 feet before making the birdie putt.

“Before the birdies, I had a sense of urgency,” Wie said. “I knew I had to do something to get things going.”


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