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Wie beats Lewis to earn first major at Pinehurst
June 22, 2014

In her 11th appearance at the national championship and making her 38th start in a major, Michelle Wie etched her name in the history books at the esteemed Pinehurst No. 2. Growing up in the limelight of big stage golf, the 24-year old from Hawaii has played under lofty expectations her entire career and has now joined the elite company of those who can call themselves ‘major champions.’ With a final-round even-par 70, Wie finished the championship two shots ahead of runner-up and world No. 1 Stacy Lewis.

“I can’t even think straight,” as Wie opened up her press conference. “I’m so happy right now. I’m just unbelievably happy. I’m so honored to be part -- to have my name on the trophy. Just so grateful for everything. I’m just really happy. I’m really thankful, just everything, feeling every single emotion I can right now.

Wie started the day tied with co-leader Amy Yang at 2-under par and got off to a shaky start when the duo exchanged bogeys on the par 4 1st hole. But it was Wie who held it together and watched her playing partner unravel through the final 18 holes of the championship. Yang would double bogey the second hole and bogeyed the par 4 5th and never seemed to recover after dropping three shots back.

Wie would par eight consecutive holes after her bogey on the 1st and looked like she would start to separate herself from the pack with a 10-foot eagle putt on the 10th hole. But world No. 1 Stacy Lewis exuded her fighter mentality on the back nine to make things interesting. Lewis, who finished with a 4-under 66 to tie the championship low round, had eight birdies on Sunday, the most by a player in a single round this week.

“I wasn’t looking at leaderboards very much,” said Lewis. “And I kind of glanced at them here and there. But I wasn’t watching, just because as soon as you try to start forcing things on this golf course, it usually goes the other way. I was trying to do the best I could, make birdies when I hit good shots into there. But you can’t force things, I mean it’s just the course plays.”

Lewis was playing four holes ahead of the final group and after a birdie on No. 13 to cut the lead to one shot, she saw a three-shot swing with a bogey on the 14th and Wie’s eagle on No. 10. The lead stretched to five shots after another bogey on 16 but Lewis responded with back-to-back closing birdies to get within three shots.

“I thought with the pressure of a major and the way this golf course played, I thought I had a chance,” said Lewis. “I think on the back nine there I was trying to hit good golf shots is really all I was trying to do. And the nerves kind of came in. I made some bad swings, hit some good putts that didn’t go in, but to birdie 17 and 18 and put the pressure on. You can’t ask for a better finish. And just really proud of myself the way I hung in there, and just came back after the last couple of days.”

Wie walked to 15th tee with a three shot lead but knew better that in the U.S. Women’s Open and at Pinehurst No. 2, it’s not over until the final putt drops. Wie took an unplayable after her second shot on the 16th hole landed in a bush in the native area near the green and ran her 30 foot bogey putt five feet past the hole. The 24-year old recalled the moment with a light heart and knew she had an opportunity at the par 3 17th hole to recover.

“I kind of smiled after I made my double bogey putt,” said Wie. “I like to make it hard if myself. But 17 I kind of played well there the last couple of days. But that putt went nicely, right at the end. But it was awesome.”

With her double bogey on 16, Wie’s lead was cut to just one shot with two holes to play. But the six-year Tour member never faltered and responded with a monster 22-foot birdie putt to extend the lead back to two shots. She called it a putt of a lifetime.

“And I think that was one of the best putts I’ve ever hit in my life,” said Wie. “It was really fast. It was a double breaker. It definitely felt like Solheim when I made the putt. That kind of emotion, that kind of pressure. I just, I think, I’ll think of that putt as one of the best putts I’ve ever hit in my entire life.”

Wie walked to the 18th hole with a two shot lead and soaked up every moment. Just one week earlier she walked during the final round of the men’s Open and dreamed of herself in Martin Kaymer’s shoes. She can now be a believer that dreams do come true.

“It was crazy,” said Wie. “I mean, like I said before, this week came into a full circle. I walked on Sunday with Rickie and Martin. I wanted so badly to be in that position, just to kind of have a leisurely walk up to 18 and make a par to win kind of thing. And I feel so lucky. Just seeing everyone root for me and just felt so special. Just knowing that my parents were there. Just knowing that my friends were there. It felt so special. I kind of wish I could do it over and over again, it’s just so much fun.”

Through the ups and downs of her entire career, Michelle Wie has never lost faith. Faith in that she could be a constant contender on Tour, faith that she would win more than twice in a season and faith that she would at some point become a major champion. She credited her support system on Sunday for believing in her every step of the way, during the good and bad times.

“Obviously there are moments of doubt in there,” said Wie. “But obviously I had so many people surrounding me, my family, my friends, my coaches, Dave Leadbetter, everyone, my agency, IMG, they never lost faith in me, that’s what pushed me forward. It’s amazing.”

Wie is projected to move to No. 7 in the Rolex Rankings and will move to No. 1 on the LPGA Tour Official Money list. With her $720,000 winner’s check, she’ll cross the $1 million mark with $1,588,465 in season earnings.

Still a youngster: Michelle Wie has been playing in major championships for the past 11 years so it’s no surprise that Wie had been plagued by the question, “When will she finally win a major championship?”

But so often people forget that Wie’s major championship resumé began when she was just 13 years old. So while Wie didn’t win her first major championship until her 38th attempt, her first major victory still came at the ripe ol’ age of 24.

To put that in perspective, Annika Sorenstam didn’t win the first of her 10 majors until she was 24. Lorena Ochoa was 25 when she captured her first major win. Karrie Webb was also just 24 years old when she won her first major title and she’s currently tied with Juli Inkster for the most major victories by an active player (7).

“I don’t think age really matters,” Wie said. “You can win a U.S. Open when you’re 34 or 24. I think it just doesn’t really matter. 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.”

She's a fighter: She clearly is not shooting for the nickname ‘queen of runner-ups’ but Stacy Lewis’ play on Sunday in the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open deserves a round of applause. Her eight birdie performance in her round of 66 left the top-ranked American just two shots clear of Michelle Wie.

“I feel great,” said Lewis. “I really do. To make eight birdies on this golf course is just a dream round. You know you’re going to make some bogeys, you know it’s going to play hard, so just the way I hung in there today and I made bogeys kind of a couple late there, but to birdie 17 and 18.”

Lewis has always adopted a fighter attitude on the course and knew if she did a good job at chipping away at the lead, she wanted to give herself a chance in the final holes. She birdied the final two holes to cut the lead to three before walking in the clubhouse.

“I thought if I got to even, I knew that would put some pressure on and it forced Michelle to hit some shots there at the end,” said Lewis. And that’s what I was trying to do, I was trying to get out early and just see what happens.”

Wie would bogey the 16th hole to cut the lead to just one shot but her birdie on the 17th gave her a two-shot lead with one to play. Her par on the final hole kept Lewis from her third major victory but better yet keeps her on her toes. The world No. 1 says the health of women’s golf and list of recent major champs elevates the Tour.

“I’ve got Michelle Wie chasing, you’ve got Lexi, you’ve got Inbee is playing well,” said Lewis. “There’s a lot of people chasing me. And you look at Michelle Wie and Lexi and the way they hit the ball and how far they hit it, they’re right on my heels. But it’s great. I mean Michelle Wie pushes me to get better. I think I push some people to get better, too. That’s why we play together when we’re home. That’s why we practice together. We want to make each other better.”

Final farewell? Aside from the eventual winner, two-time U.S. Women’s Open champ Juli Inkster had the loudest cheers throughout Pinehurst No. 2 the entire final round on Sunday. The 53-year old fell short of becoming the oldest major champ, male or female, but the California native took all that came with Sunday’s round in for good measure.

“It’s really hard, they were so pulling for me, but it’s really hard to acknowledge them when you’re 5-over par and struggling. It was very nice, especially the reception on No. 1 tee and reception on 18, and all around the golf course. It was great. Very, very, very honored.”

Inkster announced earlier in the week that her 35th appearance at the championship would be her last. She didn’t cap off an epic week that would’ve been the story of the year but her 5-over 75 on Sunday left her in a tie for 15th. It marked her best finish at the national championship since her sixth place finish in 2006 at Newport Country Club in Rhode Island.

“I was disappointed in the way I played today, as a golfer, but that was my first thought,” said Inkster. “But as a person I just felt a lot of pride that people root for me like that. So, it’s good.”

Asked what she’ll miss most about the national championships, Inkster quipped that she couldn’t think of much.

“I’m not going to miss much. (Laughter.) Just playing in the U.S. Open and how tough it is and just the feelings of just very proud to have won a couple and I can always say I’m a U.S. Open champion. I think that’s what I take away from it.”

Quote of the day: “Well, I think that scene on 18, being on network TV, as many people as we had around there at Pinehurst No. 2 and Michelle Wie winning the golf tournament, I don’t think you can script it any better. I think it’s great for the game of golf. I think it’s even better for women’s golf. I’m so happy for Michelle Wie. I mean this has been such a long time coming for her. She works way too hard. I’ve seen the work she puts in. We work out together when we’re home. We play some golf together when we’re home. And she’s out there grinding away just like the rest of us. To see her get it done, and the way she did it today, coming back after that double, I’m just so happy for her.” -Stacy Lewis on Michelle Wie winning her first major championship

The social scene: 2014 U.S. Women’s Open Championship winner @themichellewie thanked friends Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley for passing along their yardage books from the week prior at the men’s U.S. Open.

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