Michelle Wie gave an emphatic fist pump after making a 20-footer for birdie on the 71st hole of the U.S. Women’s Open because she knew a two-stroke lead would be all she needed heading to the final hole. A par at the last gave the 24-year-old her first major victory, and “a dream come true.”
In many ways, success on the golf course comes down to how well you deal with adversity. Wie showed she has the mental fortitude to win a major by bouncing back with a birdie on 17 after double-bogeying the 16th hole in the final round. The same could be said about a bogey on the first hole, or a bad stretch of holes on the back nine in the third round. Michelle always kept her composure, and earned the U.S. Open title in her 11th appearance at the national championship, and her 38th start at a major.
Wie said she dealt with the pressure by having fun. “It was just like I said yesterday, I woke up so excited. I was just so grateful for this opportunity. And I definitely got a lot of goose bumps walking up 18 because I thought to myself how cool it was. I kind of had the same putt as Martin [Kaymer]. Didn’t quite hit it as hard as he did. Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe this is happening.”
It’s been a long time since Michelle burst onto the scene as a 13-year-old playing a PGA Tour tournament. Perhaps, the biggest change to her game is her unusual table-top putting stance, which has led to the best season of her career on the LPGA. In 2014, Wie has two victories, nine total top-10s, and is second in the season-long Race to the CME Globe. World no. 1 Stacy Lewis is the only player who is arguably having a better season than Wie.
Lewis emerged as the final round challenger to Wie after falling six shots behind the pace set by Michelle and Amy Yang through three rounds. Stacy peppered Pinehurst with eight birdies and four bogeys for a final round 66, and a 72-hole total of even par.
After finishing her round with birdies on 17 and 18, Lewis said, “I knew I needed to get out early and post some numbers, and make Michelle Wie earn it.”
As Stacy made her run, Wie played steady golf after an opening bogey. She had eight straight pars coming into the par-5 tenth where she eagled to increase her lead to four strokes. Another five straight pars seemed to lock up the championship, but Wie made it interesting with a double-bogey on 16 to bring her lead to one over Lewis who had already posted her score.
Wie said, “Yeah, I kind of smiled after I made my double-bogey putt. I like to make it hard on myself. But 17 I kind of played well there the last couple of days. But that putt went nicely right at the end.”
The birdie on the par-3 17th was the biggest birdie of her life, and the par on 18 gave her the biggest victory of her life. Michelle finished with an even-par 70, and a tournament total of two-under.
Wie’s major win was a gutsy effort, and is a tribute to the hard work she has put into her game. “Obviously, there are moments of doubt in there. But obviously I had so many people surrounding me: my family, my friends, my coaches, Dave Leadbetter, everyone, my agency, IMG, they never lost faith in me, that’s what pushed me forward. It’s amazing.”
Michelle is also motivated to keep winning. “I feel like I’m definitely working harder, and I definitely love going out there and hitting balls and working on my game, just because it’s fun when hard work pays off. This is definitely motivating for me. I want to get better, I want to win more, just because it’s so much fun.”