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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Wie, Wie, Wie All the Way Home

Yes, Michelle Wie got her first win since the 2010 CN Canadian Women's Open (starting this year, it's now known as the Canadian Pacific Women's Open). And before you criticize my humor, consider the truth of it.

Wie with trophy

First of all, Michelle WAS home. She grew up in Kapolei, on Oahu. She grew up playing at the Ko Olina Golf Club, where they have a statue in her honor. In fact, she knew a huge number of the people who came to watch her final round... and Mark Rolfing said it may have been the largest crowd he'd ever seen at an LPGA event.

Second, this was Michelle's first-ever LPGA win on American soil. She had won the 2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico and the afore-mentioned Canadian Open in -- where else? -- Canada. (Her win at the 2003 US Women's Amateur Public Links wasn't a professional win, of course.)

But perhaps most importantly, the story really was all Wie, all the way to the clubhouse. Angela Stanford entered the final round with a 4-stroke lead and the wind blowing, which in and of itself had been a huge benefit to Angela in the third round where she posted a 67 to follow up Thursday's 64. (Michelle had posted 67-70 in those two rounds.) And Michelle has had trouble closing out final rounds.

The operative word is had. It was a different Michelle on the course Saturday. She was 3-under after 6 holes -- 3 birdies, no bogeys -- while Angela could manage only 1 birdie before bogeying the 6th. Suddenly Angela was only one stroke ahead... a stroke she lost on the 8th. After 9 holes Angela was +1 while Michelle was a bogey-free -3. The two were tied and the wind was increasing.

Michelle continued playing bogey-free golf. She birdied 12 and 13, then Angela birdied 15 to get within one. But Michelle's birdie on 16 put her two up with two to play... and then she did the Bubba, busting her drive across the 17th's dogleg into the wind, leaving herself a mere pitch to the 350-yard hole's green. Angela was forced to try for a birdie but could do no better than bogey, leaving Michelle 3 ahead with only the par-4 18th left.

Michelle bogeyed that hole, but it didn't matter. Her 5-under 67 was enough for a two-shot victory.

Will this be the catalyst to get Michelle on a run of victories? I don't know. And to be honest, Michelle didn't really seem to care. She told Jerry Foltz that she suspected it would help her confidence going forward, but was so excited that she was clearly dumbfounded when he asked her about getting her first win in the States. It hadn't registered yet!

Whatever the ultimate impact is, this can only be good for the LPGA -- just witness the turnout to see Michelle play. It will be interesting to hear what the ratings were for the final round broadcast and to see how it affects the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic next week in San Francisco, where Michelle is also in the field. But now Michelle has proven to herself that her new approach to the game can get the job done...

And that could make things very interesting for the rest of the ladies. Game on, Lexi?

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