PINEHURST, N.C. – Michelle Wie finally delivered a performance worthy of the hype that has been heaped on her since she was a teenager.
Wie bounced back from a late mistake at Pinehurst No. 2 to bury a 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, sending the 24-year-old from Hawaii to her first major championship Sunday, a two-shot victory over Stacy Lewis in the U.S. Women’s Open.
Wie closed with an even-par 70 and covered her mouth with her hand before thrusting both arms in the air.
Lewis, the No. 1 player in women’s golf, made Wie work for it. Lewis made eight birdies to match the best score of the tournament with a 66, and then was on the practice range preparing for a playoff when her caddie told her Wie had made the sharp-breaking birdie putt on the 17th.
Lewis returned to the 18th green to hug the winner after other players doused Wie with champagne.
What a journey for Wie, who now has four career victories and moved to the top of the LPGA money list after winning the biggest event in women’s golf.
She has been one of the biggest stars in women’s golf since she was 13 and played in the final group of a major. Her popularity soared along with criticism when she competed against the men on the PGA Tour while still in high school.
Oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening, Wie said.
Wie started the final round tied with Amy Yang, took the lead when Yang made double bogey on No. 2 and didn’t let anyone catch her.
In trouble on the fourth hole, she got up-and-down from 135 yards with a shot into 3 feet. Right when Lewis was making a big run, Wie answered by ripping a drive on the par-5 10th and hitting a cut 8-iron into 10 feet for eagle and a four-shot lead.
She had not made a bogey since the first hole – and then it all nearly unraveled.
From a fairway bunker on the 16th, holding a three-shot lead, Wie stayed aggressive and hit hybrid from the sand. After a three-minute search, the ball was found in a bush that resulted in a penalty drop. She chipped on to about 35 feet and rapped her bogey putt 5 feet past the hole.
Miss it and she would be tied.
But she poured it in to avoid her first three-putt of the week and maintained a 1-shot lead. Wie hit 8-iron safely on the 17th green and holed the tough birdie putt.
Obviously, there are moments of doubt in there, Wie said. But obviously, I had so many people surrounding me. They never lost faith in me. That’s pushed me forward.
Wie finished at 2-under 278, the only player to beat par.