Michelle Wie, who quietly went about her business at Pinehurst this week as an 11-year-old upstaged her, a former No. 1 stole her thunder, and the sports world’s attention turned to soccer, won her first major title on Sunday, the U.S. Women’s Open.
With runner-up Stacy Lewis warming up on the range in case of a playoff as Wie faltered slightly down the stretch, Wie steadied her nerves and walked up the 18th fairway a conquering hero on her way to shooting an even-par 70 in Sunday’s finale.
The 24-year-old Stanford grad and former child prodigy, of whom great things were expected even before she turned pro at the age of 15, finished the week at 2-under, two shots better than world No. 1 Lewis, whose final-round 66 had observers thinking overtime.
But Wie, who led from the start on Thursday and shared the 54-hole advantage with Amy Yang, dissolved into an emotional embrace with her mother after sinking her final par putt of the tourney on the 72nd hole.
"I just had a lot of fun. I was so grateful for this opportunity," Wie told NBC’s Steve Sands after finally putting that first grand slam event in the win column. "I definitely got a lot of goose bumps walking up 18 because I had the same putt as Martin [Kaymer, the wire-to-wire winner of the men’s U.S. Open on the same course last Sunday]. Didn't quite hit it as well as him, but I can’t believe this is happening."
Up by three on the 16th tee, Wie made what appeared to be a costly double bogey on the par-4 but came right back with a birdie on the par-3 17th and a two-shot edge heading to the last.
"I smiled after I made my double-bogey putt," Wie said after walking up to the 18th green to a standing ovation. "I just like to make it hard for myself. On 17, I played well there the past couple of days. The putt nicely went right, right at the end."
Wie, who was the Next Big Thing when she burst onto the golf scene as a preteen, sparked huge hype and signed lucrative endorsement deals when she turned pro. She has also weathered years of criticism for taking her talents to the PGA Tour before ever winning on the LPGA Tour as well as for staying in college (she graduated Stanford in 2012 with a degree in communications) at the expense of her golf.
Sunday’s win was Wie’s fourth on the LPGA Tour and her second of the season, after triumphing at the LPGA Lotte Championship in her native Hawaii in April. That victory was her first since 2010.
Wie also contended at the women’s first major of the season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, eventually finishing runner-up to Lexi Thompson.
"It was awesome," she said.