Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie were getting ready to play in their first U.S. Women's Open, at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon in 2003.

Creamer was a few weeks shy of her 17th birthday and already was tired of hearing about Wie.

"It gets old," Creamer told reporters. "You look everywhere, and there she is. I play against the best juniors in the world, and she's just another junior. I don't place her on a higher plateau."

Wie was 13, and the golf networks had decided she was everything to the women's game. She was more important to the TV folks than Annika Sorenstam, perhaps the greatest player in history.

Wie's large sense of entitlement was obvious even as an adolescent -- even before Nike started sending those large checks.

In 2003, when asked about that Creamer comment, Wie dismissed the idea that such a player could provide competition for her when the younger generation took over the LPGA Tour a few years down the road.

"I'm not really sure if there's going to be a rivalry [with Creamer] or not," Wie said. "I'm not going to think about it."

Creamer turned pro in 2005. She won twice and became the LPGA Rookie of the Year. Her first victory came at the age 18 years, 9 1/2 months.

Wie played in 15 tournaments as a 15-year-old amateur that year. She had a second, a third and a fourth while playing in the four majors.

She turned 16 in October '05 and took the Nike money. She made her professional debut in the Fields Open in her home state of Hawaii the next February.

The five international organizations that run women's tours had endorsed a world ranking for the first time. The rankings debuted early in 2006, with Sorenstam a lopsided No. 1 with 18.43 points, followed by Creamer's 9.54 and Wie's 9.13.

The Wie camp was in full giddiness that their meal ticket was No. 3 before she played as a professional.

"It's incredible that Michelle has been ranked that high," said B.J. Wie, her father. "She had played only 15 tournaments, and we weren't sure where she would come out."

This isn't quite as incredible as where Creamer and Wie find themselves 2 1/2 years after the debut of world rankings, and five years after the youthful dust-up in Oregon.

Creamer tees off at Interlachen this afternoon as the No. 4 player in the world. Her partners in the prestigious group are Sorenstam (No. 2) and Suzann Pettersen (No. 3).

Wie tees off early this morning with Kimberly Kim and Julieta Granada. She carries with her the No. 187 ranking in the world.

Creamer has six career victories, including two this year. Wie has none. She made it through a qualifier for the U.S. Open earlier this month, and it was treated like Annika's 59 in Phoenix seven years ago.

Michelle and her handlers would like you to believe that her incredible 184-place fall in the rankings can be traced fully to a wrist injury. Nice excuse, but she was playing lousy golf before that.

She was on her way to shooting 88 -- and thus losing the ability to take sponsor's exemptions for the rest of 2007 -- when she withdrew from Sorenstam's event last May.

Wie claimed injury. The LPGA allowed her to get away with that sham, even though she was practicing two days later for the McDonald's LPGA.

And now Wie has come out of hiding with a few respectable rounds, and that's enough for the media to start treating her as someone special.

There were five players invited to the media center for mass pretournament interviews. The players were world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa, Sorenstam, McDonald's LPGA champion Yani Tseng, defending champion Cristie Kerr and ...

Creamer, No. 4 in the world? Of course not. The fifth player required for a pre-Open interview at Interlachen was Wie.

One thing Michelle should get credit for at this point: She was right five years ago when suggesting there might not be a rivalry with Creamer.

The Pink Panther has gone her way, to the elite of the women's game, and the Counterfeit Superstar has gone another, to one precious position ahead of Katie Futcher in the world rankings.

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. •