Wie breaks through, wins her first major at Pinehurst

Jun. 22, 2014 @ 07:32 PM

At the birthplace of American golf, in the American national championship, an American won her first major championship.

Michelle Wie avoided potential disaster by draining a long birdie putt on the 71st hole and had an easy walk up the 72nd to win the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open Championship, staving off a hard charge by Stacy Lewis.

“I just had a lot of fun,” Wie said. “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.”

Three shots up on Lewis, who was already in the clubhouse at even-par with a final round 66, with three holes to play, Wie played an aggressive hybrid out of a fairway sandy area on the 16th hole into an unplayable lie, a lie so unplayable it took a few minutes for Wie, her caddie and USGA officials to find her ball. She took a drop and managed a double-bogey to hold onto a one-shot advantage.

A consistent putter all week, the Honolulu native didn’t change her routine and rolled home a sloping putt from 25 feet for birdie on the very next hole.

“I was very nervous just because I made a mess out of things on 16, but I just knew what I needed to do,” she said. “I knew I needed to make birdie to make it easier on 18. I was just really happy when that putt broke in. It was awesome.”

Lewis, the women’s world No. 1-ranked player, made things interesting. She was the first-round leader but shot 7-over combined in the second and third rounds to supposedly fall out of the picture. But she had eight birdies on Sunday, climbed back to even for the championship and was preparing for a playoff if Wie couldn’t hold on.

“I was proud of myself the way I hung in there after the last couple of days,” Lewis said. “I think people know me and know that I’m not going to give up.”

In her first tournament as a professional, Stephanie Meadow birdied the 18th on Sunday to finish at 1-over, solo third.

“It’s been amazing,” Meadow said. “Couldn’t have pictured a better way to start my professional career. It’s pretty much a dream come true.”

Amy Yang, who shared the third-round lead with Wie, struggled to find a rhythm and shot a 74 to fall to solo fourth place at 2-over after taking 33 putts, the most for her in a round this week.

“I just had no feeling of the distance (on the greens),” she said. “I just had a tough time all day. But it’s a good lesson and I need to do more work.”

Meena Lee and 2011 champion So Yeon Ryu finished tied for fifth at 3-over, while Lexi Thompson, Sakura Yokomine and Pornanong Phatlum shot a 72-hole total of 4-over. Juli Inkster, at 53 a two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion and tied for third after three rounds, struggled through a 75 and finished tied for 15th at 7-over in likely her last crack at this tournament.

Wie is the first American to win this tournament since Paula Creamer did in 2010 at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa., and just the third in the last ten years. She spoke of a great deal of pride at winning her native championship.

“I told (everybody) that I was going to play with pride, being an American out there in our national championship,” she said. “I definitely felt that today. I felt proud being in contention, being an American, having a chance for an American to win. I definitely played a bit harder because of that.”