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Major Step Forward for Wie


Michelle Wie has finally realized the off-the-charts potential predicted for her since she stormed onto the national golf scene as an 11-year-old prodigy. Now a mature 24, Wie recaptured the limelight on Sunday by winning the 69th U.S. Women's Open at Pinehurst in North Carolina.

Known for years as a long-hitter who could be erratic during challenging stretches, this week Wie displayed a competitive grit and - coupled with outstanding putting on the slick and domed greens at the Donald Ross-designed No. 2 course - remarkable consistency.

The key moment for Wie came in the last three holes Sunday. With a three-stroke lead over Stacy Lewis, who soared up the leaderboard off a tournament-matching low round of 4-under 66, Wie made a mess of the par-4 16th when her drive found one of No. 2's many waste bunkers dotted by wire grass.

Instead of hitting conservatively back onto the fairway, she put her second into a big bush in another bunker up ahead. After a lengthy search for the ball, Wie found it but was forced to take a drop and a one-stroke penalty. Following a two-putt, she'd carded a double-bogey to go only a shot ahead of Lewis.

At this juncture in previous years, Wie might have suffered a meltdown. But on the very next hole - the par-3 17th - Wie placed her tee shot to 25 feet and sank the birdie putt for a two-shot advantage with a hole to play. All she needed to do on the par-4 18th was make bogey, but Wie two-putted for par to ignite a raucous celebration.

Wie later told reporters she'd never forget her supreme focus on No. 17. "I hit a good shot there," said Wie, who finished at 2-under 278 and become the only player to end up under-par for the championship. "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."

Wie was aided throughout the championship by her outstanding putting. Though 72 holes, the 6'1" Hawaiian benefited greatly from her new stooped, "L"-shaped stance. Through 72 holes Wie didn't three-putt; even more impressive perhaps was her 25 one-putts, showing an uncanny ability to get up and down, a key for any U.S. Open champion.

Wie related to the media that her acumen on the short grass was the product of hard work. "I feel comfortable with it. I think that the ball is coming off the putter face a lot more consistently than it has before," she said. "I practice a lot. I practice a lot of lag putting. I practice putting a lot. I practiced an average of two hours last week. I was trying to feel comfortable out there. I was trying to make it a habit. Just trying to make it routine."

She also told reporters that a revised mental approach - and a carefree attitude - has led to consistency she previously didn't enjoy. "I think one of the biggest lessons I've learned is to just really stay in the present and really try not to control everything. I think when, growing up, I was kind of a control freak," she said. "I just wanted to control everything. Have the perfect swing. Have the perfect putting stroke.

"And if something wasn't perfect, then I would start to freak out. I think over the years I started to learn, notice, that you can't be perfect. I started to look at other people's swings. There's so many different swings that wins golf tournaments. There's so many different putting strokes. You can't be perfect all the time. I just decided just to let it go, just to have fun, and just try to get better every day. And I think I've learned a lot from that."

Here's what else the newly-crowned U.S. Women's Open champion had to say after Sunday's trophy presentation. For Wie, it was her second USGA title; she also won the 2003 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links, at age 13.

MODERATOR: It's a pleasure to welcome the 2014 U.S. Women's Open's champion, Michelle Wie, to the interview room. Even par round of 70 today in the final round for a 72 hole total of 2-under, 278, the only player under par in the championship. Michelle Wie's second victory of 2014, and her first major championship. You sat here on Tuesday and talked about holding everything up like a trophy, even salad bowls. And now you have the trophy right next to you, just talk about what that means.

MICHELLE WIE: Oh, my God, I can't even think straight. I'm so happy right now. 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.

Q. You are the same age now that Annika was when she won that trophy down the road at Pine Needles for the first time. We all thought she was incredibly young at the time. Do you think you've been around so long we held you to a different standard, and now that you have this, what do you think about that?

MICHELLE WIE: I don't think age really matters. You can win a U.S. Open when you're 34 or 24. I think it just doesn't really matter. It's just the fact that your name is on the trophy, I think that's the most important part. And just like I said before, I'm just so honored to be part of that club. I was talking to Meg Mallon this week when she came into town and they all had that champions dinner, and we grabbed a drink before she went to dinner. I told her that, oh, I really want to go to that dinner, it seems so cool. She was actually talking about the year she won, after Hilary Lunke, and she said, came into a full circle, how she thought it was really cool when Hilary won, and how she wanted to win. And then she won the next year. And it kind of came into a full circle this year for me, too. Walking down 18 with Rickie and Martin and Kaymer, seeing him make the putts, just completely full circle for me this week. And I just could not ask for more.

Q. What were you and Amy talking about when you walked down the 18th fairway?

MICHELLE WIE: I don't really know. I think I completely blacked out. It's a complete blur.

Q. That putt on 17, 20, 25 feet, can you talk about how much break you had to play, first of all, and secondly, why you had be such a drama queen with what you did on 16.

MICHELLE WIE: You know, I just love the attention, you know. I just like to make it really difficult for myself. But, no, I mean I just - stuff like that happens at a U.S. Open. I was kind of a dummy for not laying up when I was in that situation. I just unnecessarily tried to go for it, and it kind of bit me in the butt. But I laughed it off. Stuff like that does happen. 17, I felt comfortable there all week. And I hit a good shot there. 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. It definitely felt like Solheim when I made the putt. 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.

Q. Obviously winning the Open means a lot, but doing it here after the men, at Pinehurst, does that even make it a little more special to do it under these circumstances?

MICHELLE WIE: I think for sure, yeah. I said it ever since they started - told that we were going to do this. I was really excited. I think we're making history this week playing on the same stage. I just was so excited. I was talking to Tom and Mike about this all week. I think the course is spectacular. I think winning on the same golf course that Payne Stewart won means so much to me, as well. And just so much history to this golf course. And just the fact that I can be part of that history, it's just so cool. And I feel so honored to be part of that history. But, yeah, it was a fabulous week. I think it's a great idea. I hope they do it more often and it's fun.

Q. I know your parents didn't want to jump in and take a picture with you and the trophy. Can you talk about what they've meant to your career and the role they play and how that's changed over the years?

MICHELLE WIE: Yeah, they obviously play a really big role. When kind of I had my downs, when people doubted me, when I even doubted myself, my parents would never let me doubt myself. If I even showed an ounce of doubt, they just kind of - they told me - they just believed in me so hard that I started to believe in myself again. And I owe them everything. Obviously, everything that I've done today, winning this championship, winning other events, everything in my career, I owe to them. They believe in me, they're my No. 1 fans. They're my two eyes. They see everything. We get into a lot of fights, that, for sure, is serious, but all the ups and downs, they're obviously there for me every single day. And they're my No. 1 fans, for sure.

Q. You mentioned it was just a week ago that you were following Martin Kaymer. Did it cross your mind at any point as you're following him that maybe that could be you a week later?

MICHELLE WIE: Oh, for sure. I walked down, I was like, oh, this would be really cool if it was me. I was walking with Korda and we were kind of walking up 18, and I told Korda, look to your left. Those people in the stands. It was unbelievable. We both got goose bumps. I thought to myself, I want to be here on Sunday. I want to feel this exact thing. It's a dream come true that it actually happened. I feel extremely lucky.

Q. You almost won one of these things when you were 15 or 16. How does going through the trials and tribulations and the fire make this different winning it now?

MICHELLE WIE: I think it just means so much more to me. I think life is just so ironic. I think that without your downs, without the hardships, I don't think you appreciate the ups as much as you do. I think the fact that I struggled so much, the fact that I kind of went through a hard period of my life, the fact that this trophy is right next to me, it means so much more to me than it ever would have when I was 15. Obviously, I still remember that. I try to drive the first hole. I learned not to do that at the U.S. Open on the first hole. I learned a lot. But I think life is just so ironic like that. I am just so grateful for that, just because of everything I've been through. I feel extremely lucky.

Q. On the subject of learning a lot, you've been building for this for a very long time. Can you isolate one or two of the biggest lessons you've learned, whether it's on the golf course or in life?

MICHELLE WIE: I think one of the biggest lessons I've learned is to just really stay in the present and really try not to control everything. I think when, growing up, I was kind of a control freak. I just wanted to control everything. Have the perfect swing. Have the perfect putting stroke. And if something wasn't perfect, then I would start to freak out. I think over the years I started to learn, notice, that you can't be perfect. I started to look at other people's swings. There's so many different swings that wins golf tournaments. There's so many different putting strokes. You can't be perfect all the time. I just decided just to let it go, just to have fun, and just try to get better every day. And I think I've learned a lot from that.

Q. Your lag putting was phenomenal this week, and it really pretty much has been all year. I believe you had no three-putts this week. How did that happen? Is it entirely the table top stance?

MICHELLE WIE: Yeah, I think I feel comfortable with it. I think that the ball is coming off the putter face a lot more consistently than it has before. I practice a lot. I practice a lot of lag putting. I practice putting a lot. I practiced an average of two hours last week. I was trying to feel comfortable out there. I was trying to make it a habit. Just trying to make it routine.

Q. Can you talk about how significant the eagle on 10 was?

MICHELLE WIE: 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. 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.

Q. I think a lot of people would say you're good for the LPGA. You're very popular. People have been watching you a long time. Has that been an added burden or have you embraced that, as an individual player, you mean a lot to this Tour?

MICHELLE WIE: I don't really actually think about it that much. I just - I want the Tour to flourish. I'm so proud of every single player on this Tour. We work really a hard to get our Tour better. It has been, every year, with the help of Mike Whan, under his command, the Tour has really started to flourish. I think this week, playing on the same stage as the men, I think it opens the door for us to get better, to get bigger. I totally think they could have kept the extra grandstand on 18, we would have packed it. The fans were amazing this week. I'm just really grateful and honored to be part of the crew, be part of the Tour. And definitely being on the uprise. It's a lot of fun to be working on the Tour.

Q. You said there were times when your parents still believed in you when you didn't believe in yourself. What was maybe the lowest point for you when you struggled to believe in yourself, when was that?

MICHELLE WIE: There's obviously a couple. I think there was a big stretch of time where I was injured. My health was not very good. And I worked hard. I never stopped working hard. And no matter how hard I worked, there was a point where I just wasn't getting any better. But David kind of talked to me and he said that, you know, sometimes hard work shows overnight and sometimes it shows over a couple of years. And, obviously, I think I was on the couple of years track. Just being impatient, I think, I just wanted to see it overnight. I just kind of got down on myself when I didn't see it. But my parents can tell when I'm down. My parents can tell when I was in doubt and they never let me doubt myself. So I think it was very brief. So they just obviously brought me out of it.

Q. There was a time when you tried to qualify for the men's Open. Did it ever cross your mind to try to play both weeks here?

MICHELLE WIE: Oh, my God, that would be horrible, like two U.S. Opens in a row. Oh, boy. I don't think I could do it.

Q. Can you talk about -- how did you sleep last night and I know before Kraft, before the final round you reached out to Meg, did you reach out to anyone?

MICHELLE WIE: Yeah, definitely. Meg reached out to me. I was talking to Keegan a little bit, too, and he kind of sent me a clip of when Pat Bradley won. I watched a couple of clips on YouTube. I definitely got goose bumps when we were talking about how amazing it is. And Meg just gave me a really good, solid piece of advice, just to trust myself and kind of just keep it slow. I think definitely a couple of glasses of wine helped my sleep last night, for sure. I slept like a baby.

Q. Can you just describe the feeling on 18, just walking up and just take us through the final putt.

MICHELLE WIE: It was crazy. I mean, like I said before, this week came into a full circle. I walked on Sunday with Rickie and Martin. I wanted so badly to be in that position, just to kind of have a leisurely walk up to 18 and make a par to win kind of thing. And I feel so lucky. Just seeing everyone root for me and just felt so special. Just knowing that my parents were there. Just knowing that my friends were there. It felt so special. I kind of wish I could do it over and over again, it's just so much fun.

Q. What was the hardest part of the day for you today?

MICHELLE WIE: I think it was just not to - to stay in the present. There were a lot of times I was like, oh, on the front nine I was already thinking about 18. Or I was thinking about the trophy or thinking about winning and what it would mean to me. And I think the hardest part was snapping back to reality and knowing that I had a very long day ahead of me. I think I just took it very slowly and did a good job of that.

Q. You talked about all the homework you did for this week, even using colored highlighters. Have you ever had a more satisfying result for your homework and really how much did it help?

MICHELLE WIE: Yeah, I mean it definitely beats my engineering exams, for sure. It was awesome. Like I told Duncan this week, I don't think I've ever spent this much time on the yardage book as I did. I kind of sat down early this week with Rickie and Keegan's book, and their caddie's books, as well. They had a lot of good notes for me. And I think that was a crucial part of my game plan. I think without those books I would kind of be a little bit lost, and I would have had to have figured it out more for myself. But it was kind of a cheat sheet. They wrote a lot of notes for me. It was helpful they played last week. I spent almost two hours this morning working on my yardage book, where to leave it, where to land it. And it was awesome that I did it. I was telling Duncan that I probably need to do that more often.

Q. Pinehurst No. 2, with two back-to-back Opens, how did the course hold up over the course of two weeks, especially coming into today?

MICHELLE WIE: It was great. The greens were in perfect condition. I think that the fairways were definitely brown, but that's definitely how the USGA wanted to play this golf course. It looked so cool. I was telling Duncan, I was looking back on the green to the fairway, and I said, it would look really weird if this place was really green and lush. It had a really cool look with it, with the native and the sand and the brownness. It was definitely a little treat if you got to the green part on the fairway. The greens held up great. I think the USGA, the maintenance staff this week did a wonderful job.

Q. This is weird to say for a 24 year old. But you traveled a long road to get here. Do you think that makes you appreciate this more than if you had won it in 2006?

MICHELLE WIE: For sure. Definitely for sure. And I definitely appreciate it so much more. It means so much more to me now. I think if -- if I won it back then I think that I wouldn't have -- I would have been like, oh, cool, this is awesome. But I think it means a lot more to me just because I went through so much and just getting this, it feels great.

Q. Your par on 4 probably gets overlooked because of the finish. But that would seem fairly important?

MICHELLE WIE: Oh, yeah. That one, yeah. I thought I hit an okay bunker shot and I kind of topped it casually out of the bunker. But I think that was one of the best iron shots I hit today. I hit, I think it was, an 8-iron, I hit a cut 8-iron in there. And that was definitely the hardest four foot putt I've ever hit in my entire life. It was a four foot putt and I read three feet of break. And it was fast, and I just hit it and I just prayed, please go in.

Q. Secondly, did any panic set in at all when you got to the bunker complex on 16 and no one could find it?

MICHELLE WIE: You know, I think that I felt a tinge of panic. I would be lying if I would say I was calm and collected. There was a lot of different words going through my mind at that point.

Q. Like what?

MICHELLE WIE: Stuff I can't say in public. But I think the most thing that I was proud of is that I just didn't let it get away from me. I assessed the situation. I knew what I needed to do. And I think that comes with experience. I think I learned from the past. I was in those situations. And, for sure, you can go down the road and go, oh, my God, what will happen if I do this. Oh, my God, I'm going to make a triple. I'm going to make a quadruple. What's going to happen. I'm going to lose the U.S. Open. I just shut that off. And I'm just really proud of myself for being able to do that. I said, okay, I'm going to leave myself 75 yards, I'm going to do this. I need to do that. If I don't do it, I don't do it. I just made it a game.

Q. Is that the only dumb thing you did all week?

MICHELLE WIE: I'm pretty sure there was a lot of other dumb things I did this week.

Q. On the golf course.

MICHELLE WIE: Oh, yeah, I mean, that definitely takes the prize. I should have laid up from the bunker. I think off the tee, as well, too, it's so wide, if I just missed the bunker, the 3-wood would have gone really far. It was a bad hole in general. And when things go wrong, they go really wrong. And that's a good example of it.

Q. The year of the Americans continues. You guys have won both majors, won so many tournaments this year. Meg was saying that she thought the Solheim Cup kind of propelled you guys. You were disappointed and it's propelled everybody. Can you talk about that and just the success of you and the other Americans this year.

MICHELLE WIE: Yeah, I think definitely Solheim motivated us. We were angry after Solheim. We were angry how we played. It definitely motivated us. No one likes losing. No one likes losing twice. And we're especially motivated. I think all of us are really excited for Solheim next year. I think all of us Americans are really motivated. We play with each other, motivate each other. I think the fact that Juli is out here every week. It's kind of a reminder that she's watching us. It's just -- I think it's great. We have a great group of Americans. We're all young, we're very hungry, and I think it's great for the Tour.

Q. Was there any point during the round and maybe after the sand save on nine where you maybe checked the scoreboard and saw Stacy and what she was doing, and maybe even like a wake-up call for you?

MICHELLE WIE: Yeah, I mean she played great today. 4-under on this golf course. Gosh, that's a really great score on this golf course. I think that seeing her in the clubhouse just waiting at even par, it's not an easy journey in. 15, 16, 17, 18, a lot can happen. But, yeah, I think she played phenomenal today. She definitely shows a lot of fight. And I really respect her for that.

MODERATOR: Your 2014 U.S. Women's Open champion, Michelle Wie. Thank you.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.