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Wie Gets Major Win


Michelle Wie closed with a gutsy even-par 70 Sunday to win the 69th U.S. Women's Open on the No. 2 Course at Pinehurst in North Carolina.

The 24-year-old Hawaiian ended up at 2-under 278, two strokes ahead of fellow American Stacy Lewis. Wie was the only player to finish under par over 72 holes on the classic Donald Ross-designed layout.

Wie opened with a bogey on the first and recorded pars the rest of the front nine to make the turn in 1-over 35. She eagled the par-5 10th, however, to get to 3-under. Following five straight pars, the three-time LPGA winner double-bogeyed the par-4 16th when her drive ended up in a bunker and, from the sand, she hit a hybrid that lodged in a thick bush.

From the unplayable lie, Wie was forced to take a drop - and a one-stroke penalty. From her drop at 70 yards out, she was left with a 23-foot putt for bogey, which she missed. But on the very next hole, Wie showed major-champion mettle, sinking a slick 25-foot birdie putt to get back to 2-under and affording her a cushion over Lewis - who matched the tournament's low round of 4-under 66 - going up the par-4 18th.

After splitting the fairway with her drive Wie hit her 120-yard approach to 15 feet and two-putted for par and her first major title. It was Wie's second USGA victory; she also won the 2003 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links, at age 13.

Following her early amateur success and subsequent ill-advised forays into men's amateur and pro tournaments, Wie attended Stanford, where she gained some much-needed maturity and revitalized her love of golf. She admitted to reporters Sunday evening that her career, up to this point, has been up and down.

"There were moments of doubt in there, but I had a lot of people around me who never lost faith in me," she said. "It's just amazing."

Remarkably, Wie didn't have a three-putt over the entire 72 holes at the iconic course known for it slick, domed greens. She also had an amazing 25 one-putts, showing an Open-caliber game to get up and down.

When her final par putt disappeared into the cup, several players ran onto the 18th green and gave Wie a champagne bath. She was also given a long embrace by Lewis, who came to the area from the driving range in preparation for a possible playoff.

Repeating her mantra throughout the week, Wie said at greenside, "I just had a lot of fun. I am just so grateful for the opportunity. I can't believe this is happening." Of her huge birdie on No. 17, she added, "That putt just went right at the end . . . it was awesome."

Wie's victory follows up Martin Kaymer's resounding eight-stroke triumph in last week's U.S. Open, completing the two majors being played for the first time ever on the same course in back-to-back weeks.

The No. 1-ranked Lewis put on a show Sunday. The 29-year-old, already with two titles this year, carded eight birdies and four bogeys to rise into second place and put some heat on Wie. Lewis struggled in the second and third rounds with a 73 and 74, respectively, mainly because of poor putting. But she found some answers prior to the start of the final round and implemented them.

"We worked on alignment, and found my hands were getting a little low on set-up," Lewis told reporters in the media center. "And when that happens the putter breaks down and the head releases. That's what we kind of worked on and that's all I thought of today. And it was just a cool day. It's amazing how your nerves start to affect you and on this golf course it makes it twice as hard. Just feels great to finish the way I did."

Northern Ireland's Stephanie Meadow made an impressive professional debut. The 22-year-old, who attended the University of Alabama, posted two straight 69s over the weekend to take solo third at 1-over 281.

Finishing alone in fourth was Amy Yang, who began Sunday tied for the lead at 2-under with Wie. But the South Korean closed with a 74 to fall to 2-over 282.

Another stroke back were South Koreans Meena Lee (68) and So Yeon Ryu (70), while sharing seventh at 284 after each carded 71s were American Lexi Thompson, Japan's Sakura Yokomie and Thailand's Pornanong Phatlum.

Scotland's Catriona Matthew matched Juli Inkster (Saturday) and Lewis for the championship's low round of 66 to garner 10th place at 285 with South Korea's Jenny Shin (68) and 16-year-old Canadian amateur Brooke Mackenzie Henderson (69).

Tied for 13th at 286 were China's Yueer Cindy Feng (71) and Korean Na Yeon Choi (74). Another stroke back were New Zealand's Lydia Ko (69), China's Shanshan Feng (70), Koreans Hee Young Park (72) and Chella Choi (73), and Americans Brittany Lincicome (71), Paula Creamer (73) and Inkster.

Playing in her 35th - and final - U.S. Women's Open, the 53-year-old Inkster electrified the golf world with her third-round 66. But the mother of two and two-time Open champion, who turns 54 Tuesday, couldn't duplicate that effort Sunday, closing with a 75.

As Inkster walked up the 18th hole the gallery rose to give the World Golf Hall of Fame member a hearty, well-deserved ovation.

The same resounding response came soon after, when Wie sank her final putt. It was clear the crowd in North Carolina was pleased an American brought home the country's national golf championship.

Defending U.S. Women's Open champion Inbee Park of South Korea carded two straight 73s over the weekend to end up at 13-over 293 in a tie for 43rd place.

For all the scores, visit http://www.usopen.com/women/en_US/scoring/index.html.

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