Michelle Wie finally knows what it’s like to be recognized as a major champion everywhere she goes, and now — a mere five days after her two-stroke victory over Stacy Lewis at Pinehurst — the reigning U.S. Women’s Open winner is ready to get back on the course in Lewis’ home state of Arkansas.
As Tiger Woods likely puts the finishing touches on just two days of golf in his long-awaited return to the links (in a tie for 83rd, he tees off at 1:12 p.m. ET in round two of the Quicken Loans National), Wie puts her week of wining and dining (or beer chugging and twerking, to be more precise) behind her and prepares to retake center stage as the second-most renowned golfer in the game.
The 24-year-old Stanford graduate with a grand slam W on her resume said she was more than ready for a respite from the hoopla, which included pounding down the brews from her trophy; her much-celebrated dance moves; laudatory notes from A-listers like Arnold Palmer, Condoleezza Rice, and LPGA co-founder Louise Suggs; and a bouquet from Adam Sandler.
''I feel like that's the biggest prize in golf, getting flowers from Happy Gilmore,'' Wie cracked to reporters on Thursday ahead of this week’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
With the breakneck pace of celebratory activities behind her, Wie said she was more than ready to tee it up with two former U.S. Women’s Open winners Paula Creamer (2010) and Ryu So-Yeon (2011) in the first two rounds of the 54-hole event at Pinnacle Country Club.
''It feels great, but I don't know how people in show business do it,'' Wie said about the attention she has garnered since sinking her final putt at Pinehurst. "I was just so happy to get on a plane to Arkansas so I could just play some golf already.
"It was a lot of fun," Wie added about her big week in the Big Apple, "but I’m really happy to be here."
Formerly top-ranked Inbee Park may be defending champion at this week’s tourney, but Wie and Lewis are the obvious headliners. Wie has been a fan favorite for years, never more so since coming into her own with a strong 2014 season capped so far by Sunday’s victory.
"It didn't help that we were walking around with a trophy and I was wearing like five-inch heels in New York City, but it feels great," Wie said about the notice she received throughout Manhattan, a stint that included a high-heeled putting exhibition.
For Lewis, the current world No. 1 and four-time Razorback All-American, this week is a homecoming, complete with shouts of "Woo Pig Sooie" ringing out across the 6,386-yard, par-71 venue.
''I joke with Stacy that it's the one tournament I don't want to play with you,'' said Wie, who has eight additional top-10 finishes this season, including a hometown victory at the LPGA Lotte Championship in Hawaii. ''Because it just gets so crazy.’’
Wie’s threesome tees off on No. 1 at 1:25 p.m., with the Lewis/Lydia Ko/Jessica Korda trio one group ahead at 1:14 p.m.