PINEHURST — Stacy Lewis was on the practice range early Sunday evening when she heard a roar from the crowd a few hundred yards away.
“She made it,” said Travis Wilson, Lewis’ caddie.
“She made it?” responded Lewis.
“She” was Michelle Wie, who had just made a birdie putt on the 17th green and 71st hole of the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2. The birdie gave her a two-shot lead and effectively ended any chance of Lewis winning.
Lewis was on the driving range hoping for a playoff. Wie had faltered – momentarily as it turned out – when she double-bogeyed the par-4 16th hole, trimming her lead over Lewis to one stroke.
Lewis, the tournament’s first-round leader, hadn’t played well on Friday and Saturday and started Sunday six strokes behind Wie. But she got her putter working – making birdies on five of eight holes at one point.
But a bogey on No. 14, on which she hit her second shot from the edge of a bunker (nearly toppling into it), stalled Lewis.
“I was moving as I hit the ball,” Lewis said. “It turned out to be a great bogey.”
And although Lewis birdied her two final holes – ending with a 66 – it wouldn’t be enough.
Lewis, the world’s No. 1-ranked player, was pleased her friend Wie won her first major championship and welcomes the challenge it represents.
“She will push me to get better,” Lewis said.
Great Scot Matthew
Tied for best round of the day – and tied for lowest of the tournament – was Scotland’s Catriona Matthew, whose 66 moved her well up the leader board to a tie for 10th. She finished the tournament at 5 over, seven strokes behind Wie.
Matthew’s Open was inconsistent, with rounds of 75-69-75-66 for the tournament.
“Obviously disappointing, the first and third rounds; but two good rounds, second and fourth,” Matthew said. “I really couldn’t put my finger on how I played much differently any of those days. Just a few bounces. Just tiny fractions can make the difference.”
That’s what made Sunday’s round, which included six birdies and an eagle on No. 10, so surprising to her. She was asked if she expected it.
“If I’m being honest, probably not, no,” Matthew said. “I would have taken even par.”
Two-time U.S. Open winner and 2013 champ Inbee Park wrapped up a disappointing week with a 73 Sunday, finishing 13 over.
“I never played this bad in the Women’s Open before,” Park said. “It was definitely a very tough golf course and probably one of the toughest I’ve played all nine years I’ve played.”
Park was never in contention, and that’s not something that a player who once won three consecutive major championships is used to.
“You’re not always going to win or contend every week,” Park said. “Last year I didn’t contend many weeks, but the weeks I contended I won.
“I’m probably more contending this year than last year. But just a little putting, short game, around the greens, it cost me probably maybe one or two shots every day.”
The conclusion of the two weeks of golf at Pinehurst came with a unique twist. When Michelle Wie’s ball was temporarily lost in the base of a wiregrass plant on the 16th hole, the man who found it was Pinehurst Resort owner Bob Dedman, walking with the final group.
“I was there and I was pointing at it, but I don’t know if I was the ultimate one or not,” Dedman said. “I’m glad we found it.”
Dedman, both exhausted and giddy, said he couldn’t be happier with the way things went hosting the back-to-back U.S. Opens, especially the reviews of the restoration of the course by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore back to the spirit of the original Donald Ross design.
“Mixed emotions,” Dedman said. “It’s like, ‘Wow, what are we going to do next week?’ You never know until it actually counts, with the restoration and how it would play. The coverage we’ve gotten, it seems to be universally received, from a positive standpoint. We’re very happy about that. And we’re happy to have the two champions we got. Two special weeks of golf. It really can’t get better than this.”
As for the future, Dedman left the door open to hosting both the men and the women again at some point down the road.
“We’ll probably have some discussions about that,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
Ball for a Wie fan
As Wie walked off the sixth green, coming off of her fifth consecutive par, her eyes were focused straight ahead as she headed to the seventh tee box.
But then she broke from her straight line path and went on a diagonal to her right. She stopped, and she handed Sara Kelly, 8, her ball. Kelly, from Nags Head, broke into an ear-to-ear grin, pure joy on her face. As Wie hit her next shot, Kelly was still holding the ball with two hands.
Low amateur honors went to Brooke Mackenzie Henderson, who edged Minjee Lee, the world’s top-ranked amateur, by two strokes.
Henderson, 16, who is ranked third in the world, tied for 10th after shooting a 69 Sunday and finishing at 5 over for the tournament.
“The best players in the world are here and to know that I’m right up there, it’s really awesome,” said Henderson, who lives in Ontario, Canada. “I still have a long way to go to where I want to be in the next couple years. But it’s really exciting to know that I have the potential, and it was a great finish here this week.”
“It’s amazing how your nerves start to affect you, and on this golf course it makes it twice as hard.” – Runner-up Stacy Lewis.
Number to know
4.537: Million career dollars earned by Michelle Wie after U.S. Open victory.
Laura Keeley and Luke DeCock contributed.