Michelle Wie a class above at Pinehurst
BY Bruce Young | LPGA Tour | 2014 US Women's Open | Wrap | 23 Jun 2014
At the age of 24 American Michelle Wie has achieved what many felt might have been the case several years earlier, she has won a major championship and taken her game to the absolute elite level of women’s golf.
Her two shot victory over Stacy Lewis at the US Women’s Open at Pinehurst has earned Wie her second LPGA title of the season and the 4th of her career but importantly she has won the female game’s most significant title and over a golf course where every aspect of her game was tested to the maximum and came through with flying colours.
With a power game to die for, allowing her to wind down or up the respective strategies needed over the outstanding Pinehurst layout, Wie dominated for nearly all 72 holes, gaining the lead in round two, losing it briefly in round three then assuming control early in the final round as her nearest rival at that point, Amy Yang, dropped away.
But major championship titles are seldom won without some sort of struggle or hiccup and today Wie’s came at the par four 16th when almost out of the blue and after a round where she had done so little wrong, came a double bogey. At about the same time Stacy Lewis, the world number one was finishing off her excellent final round with birdies at the final two holes and with the difference now just one, Wie needed to play the final two holes well if she was to hold out the determined Lewis.
She did so with a fine tee shot and a lengthy birdie putt at the 17th to open the gap to two and then a solid par at the last to win by two over Lewis, by three over Northern Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow, a brand new recruit to the professional ranks, and by four over South Korean Amy Yang.
Perhaps the most telling period in her round came at the 9th and 10th where she made a great par save from the back bunker at the par three 9th and then hit a monster drive followed by an 8 iron at the 10th to 12 feet and converted for eagle. That established a four shot break which despite her late stumble gave her the cushion to go on and win.
Wie has come of age in so many respects. From the precocious, yet perhaps misguided talent she was in her early teenage years, to the classy player she developed into as she began to focus solely on the LPGA Tour, to the student at Stanford, Michelle Wie has for so long been a work in progress, often misunderstood but always recognised for a power game, so seldom seen in female golf.
Her persistence in chasing starts in men’s events during her mid teens and at times explosive nature, earned the angst of the golfing public and many of those from within the game but she has turned that around to now be one of the most admired and increasingly respected figures in women’s golf. Her presence will assist the LPGA in gaining and retaining sponsors and will benefit. While it might be a little much to draw comparisons with Tiger Wood’s contribution to the men’s game, her now regular involvement in contention and her marketability, make her a natural drawcard.
Wie managed to keep her emotions in check but one can only imagine what she was thinking as she wrapped her arms around her mother as she walked from the 18th green today. She has had to overcome a lot of negativity to the way she has gone about her business, (much of it admittedly self-imposed) but in recent times and more especially today she has won over and attracted an ever increasing army of admirers.
Michelle Wie competing in and winning major championships is just the tonic the world of women’s golf needs and long may it remain.
The Australian challenge, which had looked so encouraging all week, was snuffed out on day four when Minjee Lee recorded a final round of 76 to finish in a share of 22nd and Karrie Webb a 77 for 30th. For both it would will have been a disappointing day but Lee can take a lot from a week where she contended at the highest level for so long. When she turns professional later this year she will be so much the better for the experience and should be proud of a very good week.