Open trophy sparks, not ends, Wie's quest

Jun. 22, 2014 @ 09:35 PM

Throughout the U.S. Women's Open week, Michelle Wie spoke, not about breaking through in a major tournament, but about the meaning of winning the national championship.

The result was the big breakthrough victory Wie, along with the golf and sporting world, has been waiting for since Wie, 24 now, was 13 years old. All that mattered to Wie Sunday evening was her, "name is on the trophy."

"I don't think age really matters. You can win a U.S. Open when you're 34 or 24. I think it just doesn't really matter," she said.

"It's just the fact that your name is on the trophy. I think that's the most important part. And just like I said before, I'm just so honored to be part of that club."

Wie was atop or tied at the top of the leaderboard throughout Saturday and Sunday.

An eagle three on No. 10 was Wie's first birdie or eagle of the day but sound play and sound putting through the first nine, along with the only serious charge coming from Stacy Lewis who started Sunday trailing Wie by six shots, meant Wie led by four following her eagle.

Steady continued and was perfect for Wie through her next five holes - all pars.

Lewis, who shot a round-best 4-under 66, was in the clubhouse by that point at even par. Wie gave Lewis good reason to go loosen up for a playoff.

On No. 16, Wie found trouble her second shot - going well short and right of the green into a sandy, weedy waste area on a dune - but fortunately found her ball.

"It was pretty scary. I gave myself a nice heart attack. I think I aged about 10 years in a span of 15 minutes there," Wie said.

"I think that I felt a tinge of panic," she said. "I would be lying if I would say I was calm and collected. There was a lot of different words going through my mind at that point."

Wie took an unplayable lie penalty, made a difficult pitch onto the back of the green, then two-putted to at least save her lead.

"You know, I just love the attention, you know. I just like to make it really difficult for myself," Wie said.

At the same time, "stuff like that happens at a U.S. Open," she said.

"I was kind of a dummy for not laying up (on her second shot)," said Wie.

She escaped with a double bogey and a one-shot lead with two holes to play. It could have been worse on No. 16 and, more critically, the six could've carried over.

"Seventeen, I felt comfortable there all week. And I hit a good shot there," Wie said.

Her iron on the 161-yard par three found the middle of the green. She rolled in a super-quick birdie putt from a little more than 20 feet leading to an outburst, multiple fist pumps and clear joy.

"I think that was one of the best putts I've ever hit in my life," she said. "It was really fast. It was a double breaker."

A two-shot margin made No. 18 much easier. A fine 3-wood off the tee and hitting the green from there left a memorable walk up the 72nd hole as national champion.

"I'm just unbelievably happy. I'm so honored to be part - to have my name on the trophy - just so grateful for everything," she said.

Her family and friends were on hand. Wie was at along No. 18 last Sunday to see Martin Kaymer's victory walk. Wie said winning where Payne Stewart won 15 years ago makes it more special.

Yes, all the time she's spent in the spotlight, wanted or not, makes the U.S. Open trophy more than a tournament win.

"I think that without your downs, without the hardships, I don't think you appreciate the ups as much as you do," Wie said. "I think the fact that I struggled so much, the fact that I kind of went through a hard period in my life, the fact that this trophy is right next to me, it means so much more to me than it ever would have when I was 15."

Wie believes one major championship will lead to more, but she knows now what got her to the Sunday evening walk at Pinehurst.

"I just decided to let it go, just to have fun, and just try to get better every day. And I think I've learned a lot from that," said Wie.

Working at the game because it's fun, not because she's trying to be perfect, motivates Wie now.

"Seeing my hard work pay off, it makes it more fun to go out there," she said.

"Because it's fun when hard work pays off. This is definitely motivating for me. I want to get better. I want to win more, just because it's so much fun."