The long wait for Michelle Wie ’12 to claim her first major title is over, as Wie’s journey to the top of the LPGA is finally complete. The 24-year old Wie took a giant step on Sunday toward living up to the incredible hype that has surrounded her for the last 10 years, winning the U.S. Women’s Open by two strokes over fellow American Stacy Lewis with a final-round 70.
Wie’s victory at Pinehurst No. 2 represents her second consecutive outstanding showing in a major championship; the Honolulu, Hawaii native fell just short in the LPGA’s first major event of the 2014 season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, finishing second after a captivating back-and-forth battle with Lexi Thompson. This time however, Wie would not be denied, as she rose to the top of the leader board with back-to-back rounds of 68 on Thursday and Friday. The Punahou High School graduate then survived a shaky Saturday performance on “moving-day,” as her third-round 72 left her in a tie for first with Amy Yang of Korea.
Playing with Yang in Sunday’s final group, Wie ultimately used a largely steady approach to claim her first major championship. While Yang imploded under the U.S. Open pressure with three bogeys and one double bogey in the first seven holes, Wie held firm with 13 pars and only one bogey in her first 15 holes. When Wie notched a dramatic eagle on the par-5 10th, it appeared that she might cruise to the title.
However, Lewis had other ideas, using eight birdies, including birdies on the 17 and 18, as well as a bad double bogey by Wie on 16, to charge to within one shot of the lead. With Lewis safely in the clubhouse at even par for the championship, Wie needed a quick recovery on 17 in order to prevent yet another major from slipping away.
With her back against the wall, Wie seized the moment with an incredible 25-foot birdie putt on the 184 yard par 3. From there, Wie safely avoided danger on the par-4 18th to preserve the win.
The U.S. Women’s Open victory for Wie is her fourth on the LPGA Tour, and her second this year, as 2014 has represented a career year for Wie; Wie has not only picked up multiple wins in a season for the first time in her golfing career, but also has risen 54 spots in the Women’s World Golf rankings since the beginning of the year on the back of eight top-10 finishes.
In turn, Wie’s revival comes after an immensely difficult two year stretch in 2012 and 2013, in which Wie was largely an afterthought on the course, and a tremendously controversial figure off of it. Wie’s use of a four-letter expletive and smash of her hybrid club at the 2012 HSBC Women’s Champions, coupled with seemingly arrogant statements that she had made earlier in her career about her personal expectations for herself, resulted in significant criticism from members of the golfing world. In particular, Wie’s assertion that she watches the PGA rather than the LPGA because she likes the players on the PGA better rankled than many of her LPGA peers.
With three top-10 finishes in her last four majors, Wie has re-established her form from her teenage years, when she drew comparisons to another Stanford product, Tiger Woods ’98, as a future golfing superstar. Wie had seven top-10 major finishes before she even matriculated to Stanford in the fall of 2007; Wie recorded four top-10 major finishes as an amateur before she turned pro in October 2005. Due to her professional status, Wie was not able to compete at the collegiate level for Stanford.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.