PINEHURST — The sandy soil of this part of the state is famous for the amount of water it can absorb. A cloudburst Thursday night barely registered by the time the U.S. Open resumed on Pinehursts No. 2 course Friday morning.
Over the years, the Sandhills also have been put to the test absorbing Michelle Wies tears.
In 2000, playing the Womens Amateur Public Links at The Legacy as a precocious 10-year-old, Wie recalled crying all day during a match-play loss. In 2007, when the U.S. Womens Open came to Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, Wie withdrew midway through the second round clutching an injured wrist, on her way to missing the cut by a mile, sobbing as she walked off the course.
That might have been the lowest point of Wies career, the moment when womens golfs greatest hope was on the verge of complete collapse. A year earlier, she had been among the top five in three of the years four majors. At Pine Needles, it was hard to foresee her ever winning as a pro.
She was a child growing through a very public adolescence, thrust onto a stage for which she had the physical gifts but not yet the mental fortitude. There was no guarantee shed ever make it back.
Seven years later, Wie is ready to put her bad memories of the Sandhills behind her this week at the U.S. Womens Open. No player has ever come onto the LPGA Tour facing the expectations Wie faced, but at 24 shes still plenty young enough to fulfill them.
I really feel like Im kind of starting the second part of my career, Wie said Tuesday. Its fun. Its a long journey. I think in a golf career, youre going to have ups, youre going to have downs. Its not a short career, its a very long career. Im in it for the long run.
It already has been a long run. Stacy Lewis, the No. 1 womens player in the world, was 23 when she made her LPGA Tour debut. At that age, Wie had been a professional for more than seven years.
Lewis, like most LPGA players, had only known Wie as an interloper for much of her career, a teenager living inside a bubble carefully managed by her father B.J. and a team of agents, sponsors and advisers. Lewis and Wie have become friends only recently, since Wie graduated from Stanford, asserted her independence from her parents and moved near Lewis in Florida. Wies game has only blossomed since.
Since she got out of school and did her own thing, its like shes a different person, Lewis said. Shes grown up, shes taken ownership of her game. Her relationship with her parents and her family is so much better. Shes out there calling the shots instead of the other way around. And its great to see, because shes playing golf and shes having fun with it.
Nothing has been more adult than her play lately. Wie finished second at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the closest yet she has come to winning a major, while she has been consistently competitive on the LPGA Tour this year. Her win in April was the third of her career and her first in almost four years.
Im mentally prepared for anything thats about to happen, Wie said. I may play great, I may play horribly, but Im just going to go out there and try my hardest.
If there ever were a time for her to win her first major, to show just how far she has come, it would be a place where she hit some of her roughest spots. The only tears anyone sees from Wie this week might be tears of joy.
DeCock: firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947