GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Michelle Wie raised both arms in the air, then put a hand over her mouth.
No need to say a thing – this celebration was a decade in the making.
Immediately after tapping in Sunday to win her first LPGA title, Wie pulled the ball from the 18th hole, looked up to the sky, let out a big sigh of relief, bounced up and down and pumped her right fist.
After all the near misses, after all the expectations, her long wait was over.
“It’s definitely off by my back,” Wie said. “I think that hopefully life will be a lot better, but I still have a lot of work to do.”
Wie fulfilled her promise with a 3-under 69 for a two-stroke victory over Paula Creamer in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. Wie finished off the victory in style, hitting a greenside bunker shot within a foot on the final hole to set up a birdie.
“Wowwwww …… never thought this would feel THIS great!!!!” she posted on her Twitter account.
Solheim Cup teammates Morgan Pressel and Creamer showered Wie on the 18th green after the winning putt.
“Just seeing them come out and pour beer all over me, it was a great feeling,” Wie said. “I’ve always seen it on TV and I’ve always wanted people to pour beer on me. It was as great as I thought it was.”
Her parents, dad B.J. and mom Bo, were there, too, for an embrace.
“I think it’s just so awesome, seeing them on the 18th green and hugging them,” Wie said. “You know, we have been through a lot as a family, and it’s just so great that they are here to share my highs and to keep me up from the lows, as well.”
Wie earned $220,000 to push her season winnings just over $900,000. The win came in her 65th LPGA Tour event – she had finished second six times.
Wie won the 2003 USGA Women’s Amateur Public Links, her only significant victory until Sunday.
“Right now it feels fantastic,” Wie said. “It’s great year. I went through some ups and downs … And obviously this tournament is the icing on the cake.”
Pressel (67), Jiyai Shin (71) and Cristie Kerr (72) were three back. Wie finished at 13-under 275 after starting the day at the Guadalajara Country Club tied for the lead with Kerr at 10 under.
“Congrats to michelle!!” Pressel tweeted.
Wie first qualified for a USGA event at age 10 and played an LPGA event when she was 12. She joined the LPGA this season and has begun to show the sizzling game that has made her arguably the biggest attraction in women’s golf.
Dressed head to toe in red, Wie had a few shaky moments but she was steadier down the stretch as her rivals faltered. In the past, it’s often been the Hawaiian who has stumbled.
The 6-foot Wie stood tall despite a nagging sprained left ankle that forced her to wear a large, black brace that extends 6 inches above her shoe top.
Wie had chances to pull away on the front nine, but couldn’t quite do it and finished with a 2-under 34 – 12 under for the tournament. She went to 13 under with a birdie on 11, giving her a one-shot lead over Creamer and Kerr. Wie bogeyed the next hole when her escape shot from under a cluster of trees squarely hit a trunk, the ball rebounding into the fairway behind her.
But she made par through 17.
Creamer drew even with Wie with an eagle on 10. But two bogeys down the stretch ruined her chances of victory.
“I gave it a chance, and Michelle played great,” said Creamer, who has battled stomach problems for a year and fought off back and thumb injuries. She is winless this year after eight career victories.
“I feel a lot better with my golf,” she said. “It’s just unfortunate that you’re so close, yet you’re so far away.”
The co-leader with Wie after three rounds, Kerr was level par on the front nine and reached 12 under with birdies on 10 and 11. After 12 holes, Wie, Creamer and Kerr were tied, but Kerr faded with bogeys on 15 and 16.
Shin, the rookie of the year, also slipped. Tournament host Ochoa shot 69 to finish six pack and Ai Miyazato, No. 2 on this year’s money list, finished 10 back after a 72.
Ochoa and Shin will battle next week for the player of the year award at the LPGA Tour Championship in Houston, the last event of the season. Ochoa has won the last three, but Shin leads the points race.
Nancy Lopez is the only player to win both the rookie and player awards in the same season, accomplishing the feat in 1978.
The LPGA, battered by economic problems and the forced resignation of its commissioner this summer, needs this as much as Wie.
“Literally, when Michelle Wie is atop the leaderboard it’s like night and day and that’s star power,” LPGA spokesman David Higdon said the day before Wie’s win. “That’s all it is. This is somebody people want to follow. You see it in her presence, the way she walks around. The way people talk to her.”
Wie played PGA Tour events when she was 14 – the biggest stage there is. She was criticized at the time for not focusing on women’s events. She turned pro in 2005 before even finishing high school.
She ignored the criticism and, at 16, she was poised to become the first woman to qualify for the men’s U.S. Open before her putter failed her.
Shortly after that she began to lose confidence and the biggest attraction in women’s golf went into a long, painful slump that was made worst by a wrist injury that ruined her 2007 season.
When she is on her game, it flies with soaring drives and better and better touch on the greens. Wie has finished second twice this season, and has two other third-place finishes on the LPGA Tour.
She has slowly worked her way back, earning her LPGA card for this season, gaining credibility with players and emerging as a star on this year’s Solheim Cup, going undefeated in four matches.
“It just taught me so much about handling that situation,” Wie said. “And actually, I wore my Solheim shoes today. So I felt pretty lucky.”
Note: The final round of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational will air again Monday at 7 p.m.