Michelle Wie earns career best finish
Michelle Wie was rolling her eyes and slapping her thigh in disgust early in the final round of the McDonald's LPGA Championship.
By the end of the round Sunday, the 15-year-old from Hawaii was accepting back-slaps of congratulations for her career-best runner-up finish in the LPGA Tour major.
As challenger after challenger failed to make a run at steady-playing Annika Sorenstam in the final round, Wie worked her way up the leaderboard. The first amateur to play in the McDonald's LPGA Championship closed with a 3-under 69 for an 8-under 280 total -- three off Sorenstam's winning score.
"I just felt really good about myself today,'' Wie said. "I was trying to make a run for her money, but I just wanted to shoot a good score.
"I definitely felt like I had a chance. Although, the last couple holes, I knew it was kind of far to reach.''
Wie was the only player in the field to break par in all four rounds.
"That's why I can't understand people saying that she can't be here,'' said Laura Davies, who tied for third. "She belongs here.''
Wie is the sixth amateur to finish second in an LPGA major and the first since Jenny Chuasiriporn lost in a playoff to Se Ri Pak in the 1998 U.S. Women's Open. Pat O'Sullivan (1951 Titleholders) and Catherine Lacoste (1967 U.S. Women's Open) are the only amateurs to win majors.
This is just the latest success for Wie.
She won the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links at age 13 and shot a 68 at the Sony Open last year at 14, the lowest score ever by a female competing on the PGA Tour. She finished fourth in the 2004 Kraft Nabisco Championship and tied for second in an LPGA Tour event in January.
Wie opened the championship at Bulle Rock Golf Club with a solid 3-under 69 and followed with consecutive 71s, earning a spot in the next-to-last group for the final round.
And while Sorenstam pulled away, claiming her third straight McDonald's LPGA Championship and moving to the halfway mark in her quest to win the Grand Slam, Wie made her presence felt.
And she did it in predictable fashion, taking advantage of her length off the tee and playing the par 5s at Bulle Rock in 6-under over four days.
"My energy was so up that my 3-wood went farther than my driver in the last couple of days,'' said Wie, who overcame an upset stomach to surge into contention Thursday.
Wie struggled with her putter throughout the early rounds, missing a number of putts from 15 feet or less. But late in the final round, the pieces started to come together.
She made bogey at the par-5 second when her approach spot spun back off the front of the green. She pitched past the hole and left her par try short. She gave her right leg a hard whack, which might have gotten her started.
She reeled off five straight pars and then birdied the par-5 eighth.
She picked up two more strokes with consecutive birdies at Nos. 10-11. Wie scrambled out of trouble at the 14th, chipping out of deep rough and making the par putt.
She had a long eagle chance at the 493-yard, par-5 15th, and sent a nifty lag putt within tap-in distance. She closed out the round with four straight pars for the best showing of her career.
"I felt real good about my putting on the last nine holes,'' she said.
As an amateur who just finished her sophomore year in high school and recently got her driver's permit, Wie wasn't eligible for the $164,385 second-place prize. That meant an extra $36,000 each to rookie Paula Creamer and Davies, who tied for third at 6-under and split second- and third-place money instead of the third- and fourth-place cash they would have shared had Wie been a pro.
Despite a 14th-place at the first major of the season, the Kraft Nabisco, some players grumbled about the rule change that allowed Wie to join the 150-player field.
"There's definitely going to be some people who are against me, and I really don't care about it,'' she said.
Wie has already qualified for the U.S. Women's Open in Colorado in two weeks, and received an exemption into the Women's British Open in July.
But first, she'll compete in the U.S. Amateur Public Links qualifier on Tuesday near Pittsburgh. And later this summer, she play in the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic.
On this week at least, Wie was better than the rest of the field, behind only Sorenstam.
"She belongs here,'' Davies said. "Anyone who don't believe that has rocks in their head.''
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