Wie finally lives up to the hype
MICHELLE Wie's strategy for the 69th US Women's Open was to laugh in the face of disaster. She made it her mantra. When bad shots happen, smile and move on.
Much has gone wrong on the golf course for Wie since she made the cut at the 2003 US Women's Open as a 13-year-old. Eleven years later, she came to Pinehurst No. 2 still in search of her first major title.
Would misfortune visit her again? It was lurking on the 16th hole, a par 4. Cruising along with a three-stroke lead, she had to take a one-stroke penalty for an unplayable lie when her approach settled in a clump of grass.
She left the green with a double bogey and her lead over Stacy Lewis, who had closed with a 4-under 66, whittled to one.
While Lewis, the world No. 1, made her way to the range to prepare for a possible play-off, Wie rebooted. She hit her tee shot at the par-3 17th to 20 feet and made the putt, a stroke of fortune that would have been inconceivable two years ago.
To rebound from the disaster at 16 with a birdie was a tribute to her resolve, which was finally rewarded. She finished with a par 70 for a 72-hole total of 2-under 278 for her fourth career victory on the LPGA Tour and her first in the continental United States. "I like to make it hard on myself," she said, describing the victory as "amazing".
Wie, 24, was the only player to finish in red numbers. Lewis, at 280, was followed by Northern Ireland's Stephanie Meadow, who posted a 69 for a 1-over total in her professional debut. Juli Inkster, playing the tournament for the 35th and final time, carded a 75 to finish tied for 15th at 7 over.
Wie said winning the title now meant more than it would have in 2005 or 2006 when she played in the last group on the final day. "If I won it back then I would have been like, 'Oh, cool, this is awesome'," she said. "But I think it means a lot more to me because I went through so much."
For anyone prone to cattiness, a teenage Wie made a convenient scratching post, making PGA Tour starts and millions of dollars from endorsements while the top women struggled for attention and sponsorships. "She took a lot of bashing early on, and she just persevered," Inkster said.
From 2004 to when she turned pro in 2005, shortly before her 16th birthday, Wie had six top-10 finishes on the tour. In the next three years, she had six top-10s. "She created a buzz," said Beth Daniel, the Hall of Famer who has mentored Wie. "Any child phenom creates a buzz, whether you want that or not."
A wrist injury set Wie back, but a slow leak in her putting stroke really hurt her progress. Towards the end of 2012, in a move born of desperation, she started putting with a unique tabletop stance. People made fun of it, but all that mattered to her was that she began seeing her lines better.
After her final putt dropped on Sunday, she received hugs from four players, including Lewis, before walking off the green and into her mother's embrace. "I thought it was very telling that her mom did not run onto the green," Daniel said.