It's difficult to contemplate. This weekend, Michelle Wie was playing in her 11th U.S. Women's Open. Born Oct. 11, 1989, she qualified for the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship at the age of 10 (at the time she was the youngest person to qualify for a USGA amateur championship). She won it in 2003. She was the youngest to make the cut at the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship that same year. In 2006, Wie was the first female medalist at a men's U.S. Open local qualifier (she failed to advance from the final stage qualifier).
Soon after Wie turned pro, a week before her 16th birthday, the trouble started. Her level of play deteriorated. She found herself the focus of several controversies, from questionable withdrawals and suspicious injuries to accusations that her parents were among the worst of sports parents. (Some of these accusations were probably true.) She finally won an LPGA event in 2009, but in most events during this time she was a side note. Even when she got into contention, she failed to close.
But 2014 appears to the year of a major Wiesy resurgence. She's a few years removed from controversy and her play is improving at a rapidd pace. Her new putting style, odd as it is, has taken her from average at best to one of the best putters on the LPGA. She's always been long, but now she's playing a smarter game with more control. She already won at the LPGA Lotte Championship in April this year, and now... well, let's hit the links.
Hole #1: Wie Is Finally a Major Champion
The wheels were wobbling a little coming down the stretch at the U.S. Women's Open (e.g., an unplayable lie and nearly lost ball on #16), but a huge birdie at 17 gave Michelle Wie a two-stroke lead and her first major championship. Stacy Lewis shot 66 on Sunday to finish at even par for the championship and applied some pressure to Wie's back nine. Watch for the table top putting method and kinesio tape to start showing up on a course near you. By the way, while it seems like she's been around forever, Michelle Wie is only 24. She could still win a lot more. [Link]
Hole #2: Tiger's Back
ICYMI: Tiger Woods announced last week that he will make his first start since back surgery in late March. He'll tee it up this week at Congressional for the Quicken Loans National. He'll work on knocking rust off in preparation for the Open Championship and his tournament will get a nice ratings boost. [Link]
Hole #3: It's a Fish Off!
Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton unwound from their T-2 efforts at the U.S. Open by going fishing... together. No word on who caught the most though. [Link]
Hole #4: Streelman Wins Travelers Championship
Kevin Streelman birdied his last seven holes to charge to 15-under and a one-stroke victory over K.J. Choi and Sergio Garcia. While the TPC River Highlands is known for birdies, Streelman's run was quite a feat. [Link]
Hole #5: Rory Arrives sans Clubs
United Airlines got Rory McIlroy to Ireland, but not his clubs. So, McIlroy tweeted about it, and it went viral, giving UA a black eye online, in newspapers, and even on the evening news. The clubs finally arrived Wednesday morning, in time for one practice round, but McIlroy missed the cut by a stroke. We suspect United will be more careful with the bags of professional golfers in the future, especially those with Twitter accounts. [Link]
Hole #6: Ilonen Wins Irish Open
Finn Miko Ilonen carded a course record 64 in the first round Thursday and held the lead all the way to end. His one-shot victory over Edoardo Molinari was the fourth of his career. [Link]
Hole #7: Stadler Tries Putting Lefty
With the anchoring ban set to take effect in 2016, players are beginning to look at alternatives. Could going to the other side of the ball be the solution? Right-handed Kevin Stadler was recently spotted working with a left-handed putter. We have to admit that we've also considered switching hands for putting during a few particularly dark periods of rolling the ball. [Link]
Hole #8: Give Fowler and Bradley an Assist
Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley gave Michelle Wie their yardage books from the U.S. Open to help her in her quest for a long overdue first major. Apparently, they keep pretty good books, and Wie reported that she enjoyed several off-color comments in the books. [Link]
Hole #9: Men's Caddies Help USGA Set Up for Women's Open
Caddies at the U.S. Open took away a little extra cash by filling out "shot sheets" for the USGA. The data from the sheets was added to a mountain of information collected from volunteers and other sources that the USGA used in an attempt to set up Pinehurst #2 fairly and comparably for the women. It seemed to work. [Link]