PINEHURST — Michelle Wie opened the door to her competitors with a bogey on the first.
Wie appeared to close it with an eagle on the par 5 10th.
But the door quickly re-opened when Wie recorded a double bogey 6 on the 16th as her lead was sliced to one.
With Stacy Lewis in the clubhouse at even par and keeping loose on the practice area in case of a playoff, Wie slammed it closed for good with a birdie on the 17th.
That birdie sparked Wie to a 2-shot victory in the U.S. Women’s Open and her first major championship Sunday afternoon at Pinehurst No. 2.
After finding the sand to the right with her tee shot on 16, Wie’s second shot advanced towards the hole but found the native grass. Wie, her caddie and officials were searching for the ball in several areas before finding it stuck in a clump of grass. Instead of attempting to hit her ball from there, Wie elected to take an unplayable lie and scrambled to savage a double bogey.
“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. “But, yeah, it was weird. I was sure the ball was somewhere. Thankfully, the caddie found it and we just called it unplayable, I got a little aggressive with my bogey putt, which I left myself with quite a hefty putt coming back.”
With her lead cut to one stroke, Wie knew she needed to calm her nerves and regain her composure with two holes separating her from the U.S. Women’s Open title.
“I felt comfortable on 17. It’s a hole that I kind of did well on,” she said. “Obviously I was very nervous, just because I made a mess out of things on 16, but I just knew what I needed to do. I knew I needed to make birdie, to make it easier on 18. But, yeah, I was just really happy when that putt broke in. It was awesome.”
Despite beginning the final round trailing by six shots Lewis tried her best to chase Wie down.
Lewis tied Catriona Matthew for the low round of the day with a 4-under 66. Juli Inkster also posted a tournament-best 66 in Saturday’s third round.
Lewis, the world’s No. 1 player, recorded eight birdies, but her hopes for her first U.S. Women’s Open title were undone by four bogeys.
“To make eight birdies on this golf course is just a dream round,” Lewis said. “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. I thought if I got to even, I knew that would put some pressure on and it would force Michelle to hit some shots there at the end. And that’s what I was trying to do, I was trying to get out early and just see what happened.”
Inkster closed out her 35th and final U.S. Women’s Open appearance with a 5-over 75 and finished tied for 15th at 7-over for the tournament.
A two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion, Inkster wished she would have been able to post a better score, but was pleased with the way the crowd spurred her on.
“It was very nice, especially the reception on No. 1 tee and reception on 18, and all around the golf course,” Inkster said. “It was great. Very, very, very honored. I was disappointed in the way I played today, as a golfer, that was my first thought. But as a person I just felt a lot of pride that people root for me like that.”
Inkster’s playing partner during her final 18 holes was Stephanie Meadow. The former University of Alabama star turned pro last week and finished third at 1-over.
“This whole experience is only going to make me work harder,” Meadow said. Obviously, I didn’t win, there’s still people beating me and I’m competitive, so I want to try and win Majors some day. So I’m going to go back and work hard. If you’re a competitive person, this is a driving force, you do well and you want more. So that’s what I’m going to do.”
Canada’s Brooke Mackenzie Henderson finished at 5-over for the week after shooting a 1-under 69 Sunday. Henderson was the low amateur, beating Minjee Lee by three shots. Lee, the world’s top-ranked amateur, finished with a 6-over 76 in the final round.
“There’s a lot of great amateurs here that qualified here this week and the U.S. Open, I mean tied 11 right now is where I stand and that’s great,” Henderson said. “Coming in, I was trying to make the cut and then climb up the leaderboard, and I was able to do that. So I’m very happy.”
Henderson admitted to being a little timid around the Donald Ross gem before settling down.
“When I first got here I was like, wow, this is an extremely tough course and it’s going to take four really solid rounds to even like come close to, well first to make the cut and then to climb up the leaderboard like I did,” the 16-year-old said. “But I was almost intimidated the first couple days and then as I got playing and I started to hit the ball really well, I knew where to hit it on the fairways and where to hit it on the greens and I became much more confident like you said. And today, right now, I sort of wish there was another round to go back out there.”
Matthew agreed with Henderson that Pinehurst No. 2 was able to withstand the challenges of having the men’s championship the previous week before welcoming the women.
“I think it’s obviously a great test,” Matthew said. “You’ve really got to think your way around. You know you can’t really go at many pins. I don’t know if there was any pins I went at all week, unless by accident. So, yeah, it’s been great. It’s worked out well following the men.”
Shawn Stinson is the sports editor of the Richmond County Daily Journal.