PINEHURST, NC – If you have followed the reality show that has been her young life and golf career, you recognized Michelle Wie on the 10th hole of today’s final round of the U.S. Women’s Open. Bold and brash.
She attacked the only par five on the back nine of Pinehurst’s famed No. 2, ripping a driver down the center of the firm and fast fairway, landing an eight iron just below the hole and sinking the short putt for eagle to open a four-shot lead.
The Michelle Wie you might not be familiar with was the one who played the last three holes. Cool, calm, and living in the moment.
After sinking a six-foot putt for what could have been a disastrous double bogey on the tough 16th, she smiled. She didn’t explode. She didn’t hyperventilate. She shook her head and smiled.
Then as if to say, ‘Okay. That’s done. Let’s dial it back in,’ she re-focused, climbed back into her routine, and finished birdie-par to capture her first major championship.
“The thing that I was most proud of is that I just didn't let it get away from me,” said Wie, whose second shot on 16 disappeared under a clump of grass in one of Pinehurst’s sandy native areas short and right of the green. She was forced to take a stroke penalty (unplayable lie) that led to the double. “I assessed the situation. I knew what I needed to do. And I think that comes with experience. I think I learned from the past.”
That double bogey trimmed her lead over hard-charging Stacy Lewis to one stroke. Lewis was in the clubhouse after equaling the low round of the tournament, 66. Wie, however, sank a 25-footer for birdie on 17 that gave her a nice two-stroke margin, making her stroll up 18 lots more enjoyable, as fans loudly roared their approval.
“I think that was one of the best putts I've ever hit in my life,” said the 24-year-old Wie. “It was really fast. It was a double breaker.”
With her final-round 70 for a two-under-par total of 278, Wie was the only player to beat par on a brown and beautiful Pinehurst No. 2 that stood up well to the historic back-to-back U.S. Opens. Martin Kaymer won the U.S. Men’s Open on this same demanding track a week ago.
Finishing third in her very first professional start was Northern Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow at 281.
But the moment clearly belonged to Michelle Wie.
“I think one of the biggest lessons I've learned is to just really stay in the present and really try not to control everything,” said Wie, who amazingly did not have any three-putts on the very challenging Pinehurst turtleback greens. “I think when, growing up, I was kind of a control freak. I just wanted to control everything. Have the perfect swing. Have the perfect putting stroke. And if something wasn't perfect, then I would start to freak out.
“I think over the years I started to learn, notice, that you can't be perfect all the time. I just decided just to let it go, just to have fun, and just try to get better every day. And I think I've learned a lot from that.”
Now Michelle Wie seems poised to finally live up to the lofty expectations her fans, her peers and the golf industry have had for her since she appeared as a big-hitting 13-year-old.