Angela Stanford denies Michelle Wie first win
Michelle Wie seemed to have the trophy in her grasp until Angela Stanford and a late stumble got in the way.
Stanford spoiled Wie’s bid for a victory in her first start as an LPGA Tour member, overcoming a three-stroke deficit to win the season-opening SBS Open by three shots Saturday.
Stanford closed with a 2-under 70 for a 10-under 206 total at wind-swept Turtle Bay, giving the Texan her fourth career win and third in seven starts. Wie had a disappointing 73 for her second straight runner-up finish in the tournament.
“Missing the trophy by a little bit is going to motivate me to work even harder for the next one,” said Wie, who hasn’t won since claiming the USGA Women’s Amateur Public Links Championships at age 13.
The 19-year-old hometown favorite was cruising along, but made a double bogey on No. 11 that gave Stanford the opening she needed.
“That was the moment I needed to step up because that was my chance,” Stanford said.
Wie said she felt she played solid.
“I just had one bad hole,” Wie said. “I’m kind of disappointed in that. But there’s a lot of positive things I can take from this week.”
Down by a stroke with six holes to play, Stanford used her irons to shoot her way back to the top of the leaderboard. She birdied three straight holes to reach 10 under and take a two-stroke lead over Wie with three holes to play.
The first birdie putt in the run, set up by a 5-iron into a brisk right-to-left wind, was from 15 feet.
“I needed to see a ball go in. That was huge,” she said.
The late birdie flurry provided Stanford complete momentum, while Wie helplessly watched. Wie had a chance to cut into Stanford’s lead on No. 16, but lipped out a 3 1/2 -foot birdie putt. She then bogeyed No. 17 by hitting into the sand twice.
“Conditions were tough and my putts didn’t drop in. Things just didn’t go my way, unfortunately,” Wie said.
Stanford broke a big smile and was drenched with beer by other players after tapping in for birdie on 18. The win was surprising because she didn’t feel quite ready to start the season.
The 31-year-old Stanford was the hottest player on tour to end the season and has emerged as one of the top golfers in the world. In the final six events of 2008, she won twice and finished no lower than a tie for sixth. She is ranked No. 8.
Stanford is off to a fast start after coming off a career-best season where she broke $1 million for the first time and finished ninth on the money list.
Wie appeared to be sailing away with the SBS title after the turn. She went up by three strokes with eight holes to play when Stanford ran into trouble around the green and bogeyed the par-4 10th.
Even Stanford had doubts whether she could recover.
“Standing on the green at 10, I thought, I don’t know if I can make up three shots in this wind,” Stanford said. “She was going to need a mistake.”
And that’s what happened.
Wie double bogeyed the par-4 11th, flubbing her 3-wood tee shot into the right marsh and sending her chip short into the rough. That dropped her to 8 under and saw her lead reduced to just a stroke, which Stanford just breezed by.
“I was really quite shocked when her ball went in the hazard,” Stanford said.
Stanford said that’s when experience over her younger competitor paid off.
“That front nine, she didn’t make a mistake. She was doing everything she needed to do win,” Stanford said. “When she made the mistake on 11, she didn’t rebound. … You could see her youth. In that she didn’t rebound as fast as she could have, I think.”
Stanford and Wie started the day tied for the lead at 8 under. The last time Wie led going into the final day was at the 2006 U.S. Women’s Open where she was tied with Annika Sorenstam and Brittany Lincicome. Wie ended up tied for third.
The finish was Wie’s 14th top-10 in her career and best since the 2006 Evian Ladies Masters. Wie also played the first SBS in 2005 as a 15-year-old amateur and tied for second.
“Obviously, it’s not like I want to be second place all the time,” Wie said.
Stanford, of Saginaw, Texas, said it’s just a matter of time for Wie. “She’s got all the shots. Once she figures things out, she is going to be just fine.”
Conditions at Turtle Bay were breezy for a second straight day with a few passing showers. Players tried to stay conservative with the wind.
“(Stanford) just seemed very stead and very in control,” Wie said.
Wie took sole possession of the lead when Stanford missed a 3-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth. The uncharacteristic mistake was Stanford’s lone bogey of the tournament.
Wie went up by two strokes at the turn by sinking an 18-foot birdie putt that had the gallery packed three deep around the ninth green cheering wildly.
The lead could’ve been bigger but Stanford was able to scramble for par. Stanford’s drive bounced on the fairway and sailed left, through the crowd and over the cart path. Her ball came to rest at the roots of a large tree. She took a drop but went up-and-down to save par.
The crowd that followed the final group was almost as entertaining as the golf. The gallery ranged from Wie’s former classmates to real sumo wrestlers complete with topknots to stars from ABC drama “Lost,” which is filmed on Oahu’s North Shore.
Brazilian-born Angela Park struggled in the tradewinds and had a 75 to tie for third with South Korea’s Na Yeon Choi (69) at 4-under 212, six strokes behind Stanford.
Taiwan’s Yani Tseng (72), the 2008 rookie of the year, and Japan’s Ai Miyazato (71) were 3 under, and Cristie Kerr (69), Sarah Lee (69) and Brittany Lang (73) followed at 2 under.