PINEHURST — Even though it came on the 10th hole, Michelle Wie’s eagle putt all but clinched her first major victory.
Wie, who started the final round tied with Amy Yang, bogeyed No. 1 after her par putt lipped out. Wie rebounded to par the next eight holes as Yang fell off the pace.
“Yesterday my first hole was a bogey, too,” Wie said. “It’s a difficult hole. It’s a long way to go. It’s just I played it great, I played a great second shot, I played a great putt, it just didn’t break. There’s really nothing to do about it. Just try to move forward and try to make some birdies from then on.”
As Wie was spinning her wheels at 1-under on the rest of the front nine, Stacy Lewis, the world’s No. 1 player, was making a lot of noise. Lewis’ footsteps had to be deafening to Wie as she inched to within one shot after a birdie on the 13th hole.
“I didn’t even know I got within a shot there. I wasn’t looking at leaderboards very much,” Lewis said. “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 way the course plays.”
All the momentum was favoring Lewis as she attempted to make U.S. Women’s Open history by overcoming the largest final round deficit to win. Lewis was six shots back to start of play Sunday and seemed to be making birdies from everywhere on the greens.
Then came a 3-minute stretch when everything turned Wie’s way.
As Wie was reaching the green on the par 5 10th in two shots, Lewis was needing two shots to find her way out of the native grass just to the right of the 14th fairway. Lewis managed to salvage a bogey to fall two shots behind Wie.
Three minutes after Lewis’ putt hit the bottom of the cup, Wie drained her eagle putt.
Suddenly Wie’s lead increased to four shots and gave her a much needed cushion going down the stretch.
“It was great. I mean, I couldn’t get anything going. I kind of left myself some good birdie opportunities, I just hit some great putts, they just didn’t drop,” Wie said. “It felt really good to make an eagle on 10. It was also great that I made an eagle on the weekend so that I would help the Wounded Warrior funds this week. It’s always great to make eagles on the weekend, just because it helps that. But, yeah, I’ll take any eagle at a U.S. Open. I’ll take any of them at any event.”
Wie would nearly give up that advantage after a double bogey 6 on the par 4 16th. Instead of folding under the pressure with Lewis sitting in the clubhouse at even par, Wie drained a birdie putt on the par 3 17th to push her lead back to two strokes.
“I felt comfortable there all week. And I hit a good shot there,” Wie said. “And I think that was one of the best putts I’ve ever hit in my life. It was really fast. It was a double breaker…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.”
That made the stroll up the 18th a coronation for Wie.
“Oh, my God, I can’t even think straight. I’m so happy right now,” Wie said. “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 added it was extra special to make her first major championship the U.S. Women’s Open.
“I was going to play with pride, being an American out there in our national championship, I definitely felt that today,” Wie said. “I felt proud being in contention, being an American, having a chance for an American to win, I definitely played a little bit harder because of that, but it was great.”
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.