Michelle Wie finally delivered a performance worthy of the hype that has been heaped on her since she was a teenager.
Wie bounced back from a late mistake at Pinehurst No. 2 to bury a 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, sending the 24-year-old from Hawaii to her first major championship Sunday, a two-shot victory over Stacy Lewis in the U.S. Women's Open.
Wie closed with an even-par 70 and covered her mouth with her hand before thrusting both arms in the air.
Lewis, the No. 1 player in women's golf, made her work for it. She made eight birdies to match the best score of the tournament with a 66, and then was on the practice range preparing for a playoff when her caddie told her Wie had made the sharp-breaking birdie putt on the 17th.
Lewis returned to the 18th green to hug the winner after other players doused Wie with champagne.
What a journey for Wie, who now has four career victories — all in North America, the first on the U.S. mainland — and moved to the top of the LPGA money list after winning the biggest event in women's golf.
She has been one of the biggest stars in women's golf since she was 13 and played in the final group of a major. Her popularity soared along with criticism when she competed against the men on the PGA Tour while still in high school and talked about wanting to play in the Masters.
That seems like a lifetime ago. The 6-foot Wie is all grown up, a Stanford graduate, popular among pros of both genders and now a major champion.
“Oh my God, I can't believe this is happening,” Wie said.
It almost didn't. Just like her so much of her life, the path included a sharp twist no one saw coming. Wie started the final round tied with Amy Yang, took the lead when Yang made double bogey on No. 2 and didn't let anyone catch her the rest of the day.
In trouble on the tough fourth hole, she got up-and-down from 135 yards with a shot into 3 feet. Right when Lewis was making a big run, Wie answered by ripping a drive on the shortened par-5 10th and hitting a cut 8-iron into 10 feet for eagle and a four-shot lead.
She had not made a bogey since the first hole — and then it all nearly unraveled.
From a fairway bunker on the 16th, holding a three-shot lead, she stayed aggressive and hit hybrid from the sand. After a three-minute search, the ball was found in a wiregrass bush that caused her to take a penalty drop behind her in the fairway. She chipped on to about 35 feet and rapped her bogey putt 5 feet past the hole.
Miss it and she would be tied.
Bent over in that table-top putting stance, she poured it in to avoid her first three-putt of the week. Smiling as she left the green, even though her lead was down to one, Wie hit 8-iron safely on the 17th green and holed the tough birdie putt. She pumped her fist, then slammed it twice in succession, a determination rarely seen when she was contending for majors nearly a decade ago as a teen prodigy.
“Obviously, there are moments of doubt in there,” Wie said. “But obviously, I had so many people surrounding me. They never lost faith in me. That's pushed me forward.”
Wie finished at 2-under 278, the only player to beat par in the second week of championship golf at Pinehurst. Martin Kaymer won by eight shots last week at 9-under 271, the second-lowest score in U.S. Open history.
Streelman wins Travelers Championship
Kevin Streelman birdied the last seven holes to win the Travelers Championship by a stroke Sunday at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn.
Streelman shot his second straight 6-under 64 to finish at 15-under 265. He broke the tour record for consecutive closing birdies by a winner of six set by Mike Souchak in the 1956 St. Paul Open.
The 35-year-old Streelman also won the Tampa Bay Championship last season. He missed the cuts in his previous four starts on tour.
Sergio Garcia and K.J. Choi tied for second. They each shot 67.
Aaron Baddeley was fourth at 13 under after a 69.
Tom Lehman victorious at Encompass Championship
Tom Lehman made a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win the Champions Tour's Encompass Championship in Glenview, Ill.
The 55-year-old Lehman closed with a 2-under 70 at North Shore and had a 15-under 201 total for his eighth senior title and first since 2012. He rebounded from bogeys on Nos. 13 and 14 — his only dropped strokes of the week — with birdies on Nos. 15 and 16, parred the par-3 17th and won on the par-4 18th.
Michael Allen and Kirk Triplett tied for second, a stroke back. Allen shot 67, and Triplett had a 68.
Lehman, the 1996 British Open winner, opened with rounds of 65 and 66 to take a three-stroke lead into the final round. He ended a 27-event victory drought.
Mikko Ilonen posts fourth career win at Irish Open
Mikko Ilonen shot a final round 70 to win the Irish Open by 1 stroke after leading from start to finish.
The 34-year old Finn celebrated his 300th European event and his fourth tour victory with an overall 13-under 271 on the Fota Island course in Cork, Ireland.
Italy's Edoardo Molinari shot 67 to take second on 12 under.
Local favorite Graeme McDowell never appeared in the hunt for his first Irish Open success, posting a 71 to finish three shots behind Ilonen.
Molinari, along with the England duo of Danny Willett and Matthew Baldwin, secured the three spots available for next month's British Open at Royal Liverpool.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times