|Michelle Wie holds on to win US Women’s Open|
|Sunday, June 22, 2014 8:07 PM|
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 2-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 her work for it. She made eight birdies to match the best score of the tournament with a 66, 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 — all in North America, the first on the U.S. mainland — 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 and talked about wanting to play in the Masters.
That seems like a lifetime ago. The 6-foot Wie is all grown up, a Stanford graduate, popular among pros of both genders and now a major champion.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening,” Wie said.
It almost didn’t. Just like her so much of her life, the path included a sharp twist no one saw coming. 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 the rest of the day.
In trouble on the tough 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 shortened 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 3-shot lead, she stayed aggressive and hit hybrid from the sand. After a 3-minute search, the ball was found in a wiregrass bush that caused her to take a penalty drop behind her in the fairway. She chipped on to about 35 feet and rapped her bogey putt 5 feet past the hole.
Miss it and she would be tied.
Bent over in that table-top putting stance, she poured it in to avoid her first 3-putt of the week. Smiling as she left the green, even though her lead was down to one, Wie hit 8-iron safely on the 17th green and holed the tough birdie putt. She pumped her fist, then slammed it twice in succession, a determination rarely seen when she was contending for majors nearly a decade ago as a teen prodigy.
“Obviously, there are moments of doubt in there,” Wie added. “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 in the second week of championship golf at Pinehurst. Martin Kaymer won by eight shots last week at 9-under 271, the second-lowest score in U.S. Open history.
Lewis got within one shot of the lead with a birdie on No. 13 and after two bogeys, kept her hopes alive by finishing with back-to-back birdies.
“I knew I needed to get out early and post some numbers and make Michelle Wie earn it,” Lewis said.
Stephanie Meadow of Northern Ireland made her pro debut by closing with a 69 to finish alone in third, earning $271,373. That should be enough to secure her LPGA Tour card for next season. Yang never recovered from her bad start and closed with a 74 to finish fourth.
Juli Inkster never got going, either. The 53-year-old Hall-of-Famer, playing in her 35th and final U.S. Women’s Open, started four shots out of the lead and didn’t make a birdie until the eighth hole. She closed with a 75 and tied for 15th.
She received a standing ovation walking up the 18th green, a remarkable career that includes three straight U.S. Amateur titles, two majors as a rookie, two daughters, then seven more majors for the career Grand Slam.
And she was thrilled for Wie, who has endured already so much for someone so young. Wie is the same age as Annika Sorenstam when the Swede won her first major.
Inkster bids farewell to US Women’s Open: Inkster sank her final putt for par, then tipped her cap and waved her putter.
The first hug came from her caddie and a handful more came from the LPGA Tour players waiting just off the green.
For the Hall-of-Famer, it was a poignant farewell to the U.S. Women’s Open.
Inkster wrapped up what she has announced will be her 35th and final appearance in the tournament Sunday with a 75 that left her tied for 15th at 7 over.
“I was disappointed in the way I played today, as a golfer, but that was my first thought,” Inkster said. “But as a person I just felt a lot of pride that people root for me like that.”
Inkster — who turns 54 on Tuesday — has a long history with the U.S. Open, making the cut in her first try as an 18-year-old in 1978 and winning it in 1999 and 2002. She announced this week that this would be her last Women’s Open.
She put herself in contention for a third title during the third round when the tournament’s first 66 moved her into a 4-way tie for third behind Wie and Amy Yang.
The cheers for Inkster started Sunday when she walked to the first tee box and kept coming right through her final walk up the 18th fairway.
“It’s really hard, they were so pulling for me, but it’s really hard to acknowledge them when you’re 5-over par and struggling,” Inkster said. “It was very nice, especially the reception on No. 1 tee and reception on 18, and all around the golf course. It was great. Very, very, very honored.”
In between, though, any hopes of a storybook ending came crashing down when she had five bogeys on the front nine. She added three more on the back to offset her three total birdies.
“It’s been really a fun week,” Inkster added, “and that’s what I’ll remember.”
ROLL TIDE: Meadow’s first week as a professional was a pretty good one.
The former Alabama player from Northern Ireland finished the Women’s Open in third place at 1 over after a 69.
Not bad for someone who was the first alternate out of her sectional qualifier in California and didn’t find out she was headed to Pinehurst No. 2 until a few weeks ago. She turned pro Monday and earned $271,373 — likely enough to secure her LPGA Tour card for next season.
TOP AMATEUR: Brooke Mackenzie Henderson claimed low amateur honors on the only day Minjee Lee really resembled one.
Henderson finished at 5 over after shooting a 69 while Lee tumbled to 8 over with a 76 that included seven bogeys and a double bogey.
She tied for 10th to earn her a spot in next year’s Women’s Open in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
The 16-year-old Canadian had five birdies — including three in the first four holes after the turn.
Lee, an 18-year-old Australian, began the day in a 4-way tie for third, four strokes behind Wie and Yang.
But bogeys on four of her first five holes quickly sent her tumbling down the leaderboard.
PINE-HURTS: Playing as a defending Women’s Open champion doesn’t seem to suit Inbee Park.
She tied for 43rd place at 13 over, one year after her victory at Sebonack.
This was her worst finish in a Women’s Open since she tied for 26th in 2009 — the year after she won it for the first time at Interlachen.
Every other time she’s played this event since 2007, she’s finished in the top 10.
GREAT SCOT: Catriona Matthew saved her best round of the Women’s Open for last.
The 44-year-old from Scotland shot a 66 with more birdies during a 7-hole stretch than during her previous three rounds combined.
During that stretch, Matthew had five birdies and eagled the par-5 10th — after rolling a 5-iron to about 2 feet — and later added her sixth birdie of the day on the 17th.
She joined Inkster and Lewis as the only players to shoot 66s this week at Pinehurst No. 2.
She had four birdies from Thursday-Saturday.
Ultimately, it was too little, too late. The 2009 Women’s British Open winner finished at 5 over after shooting two 75s.
CROMWELL, Conn. — Kevin Streelman birdied the last seven holes to win the Travelers Championship by a stroke at TPC River Highlands.
Streelman shot his second straight 6-under 64 to finish at 15-under 265. He broke the tour record for consecutive closing birdies by a winner of six set by Mike Souchak in the 1956 St. Paul Open.
The 35-year-old Streelman also won the Tampa Bay Championship last season. He missed the cuts in his previous four starts on tour.
Sergio Garcia and K.J. Choi tied for second. They each shot 67.
Aaron Baddeley was fourth at 13 under after a 69.
GLENVIEW, Ill. — Tom Lehman made a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win the Champions Tour’s Encompass Championship.
The 55-year-old Lehman closed with a 2-under 70 at North Shore and had a 15-under 201 total for his eighth senior title and first since 2012. He rebounded from bogeys on Nos. 13 and 14 — his only dropped strokes of the week — with birdies on Nos. 15 and 16, parred the par-3 17th and won on the par-4 18th.
Michael Allen and Kirk Triplett tied for second, a stroke back. Allen shot 67 and Triplett had a 68.
Lehman, the 1996 British Open winner, opened with rounds of 65 and 66 to take a 3-stroke lead into the final round. He ended a 27-event victory drought.
CORK, Ireland — Finland’s Mikko Ilonen completed a wire-to-wire victory in the Irish Open, shooting a 1-under 70 to beat Italy’s Edoardo Molinari by a stroke.
Ilonen finished at 13-under 271 at Fota Island. He has four victories in 300 career European Tour starts.
Molinari closed with a 67. England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick, the U.S. Amateur champion, had a 68 to tie for 29th at 5 under in his pro debut.
AIR CAPITAL CLASSIC
WICHITA, Kan. — Monday qualifier Sebastian Cappelen won the Air Capital Classic for his first Web.com Tour title, finishing with a 4-under 66 for a 1-stroke victory over Matt Weibring.
Cappelen, from Denmark, had an 18-under 262 total after opening with rounds of 66, 65 and 65 at Crestview Country Club. The 24-year-old former University of Arkansas player earned $108,000.
Cappelen is the 21st Monday qualifier to win a Web.com Tour event and the first since 2011.
Weibring shot a 64.
FOUR WINDS INVITATIONAL
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Canada’s Nicole Vandermade won the Four Winds Invitational for her first Symetra Tour title, closing with a 4-under 68 for a 1-stroke victory.
Vandermade, from Brantford, Ontario, had a 12-under 204 total at Blackthorn Golf Club. The 24-year-old former University of Texas player earned $22,500 to jump from 90th to eighth on the money list with $26,278, with the final top 10 earning 2015 LPGA Tour cards.
Lee Lopez was second after a 70.