Michelle Wie held off Stacy Lewis to win her first major championship at this year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst.
As the LPGA season winds down, Wie would like nothing better than to see if she can mount a late charge at Lewis for some prestigious season-long awards.
Wie, 25, walked away with the first substantial award of the year in the women’s game, claiming the Rolex Annika Major Award at the Evian Championship last month. The new award is a valued prize as it honors the best player in the year’s five most important events, the major championships. Wie won it on the strength of her U.S. Women’s Open victory and second-place finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Coming back from a summer injury, Wie is in position to make a run at the Race to the CME Globe and the $1 million jackpot that goes with it, and she’s still in the hunt for Rolex Player of the Year and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, though she’ll need a dynamic finish to grab those.
“I think it’s definitely in the back of my mind,” Wie told LPGA media Wednesday as she prepares to play the Blue Bay in China this week. “It’s something I’m not consciously thinking of. I feel like if I play good golf and keep playing well and shooting low scores, that will take care of itself.”
The challenge is prying Lewis’ fingers off the big prizes.
With five events remaining on the LPGA schedule, Lewis is threatening to haul away the most meaningful awards left to win. Lewis has a firm grip on the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy and the official money title with leads in all three statistical categories.
She is trying to become the first American to claim all three in the same year since Betsy King in 1993.
These are prizes Lewis makes no secret she covets.
“The goal the rest of the year is looking at those year-end awards,” Lewis said at the start of the fall Asian swing.
This is a week for challengers to make their moves on Lewis, who is taking the second of a two-week break before finishing out the season. Lewis isn’t in the field in China but will return to the Fubon Taiwan Championship next week with plans to play the final four events of the year. Rolex world No. 2 Inbee Park is also taking off this week.
Lewis leads the Race to the CME Globe points standings with Wie fourth, leads the Rolex POY standings with Wie third and leads the Vare Trophy race with Wie second.
Wie was asked if she valued the Race to the CME Globe or Player of the Year award more.
“I think it’d be really cool to win the inaugural Race to the CME Globe,” Wie said. “Not because of the money, but just because of how the point system works all year . . . But I’ve never won Player of the Year before, and it’s something that I’ve always worked towards. So I can’t really choose.”
With her victory at the Lotte Championship and then the U.S. Women’s Open, Wie has climbed to No. 6 in the world rankings. She was No. 103 just 18 months ago.
If not for a finger injury that kept her out of competition for most of the last three months, Wie could be making an even harder challenge for the game’s big awards.
“The last three months I did drop a couple of spots on all the rankings, so I really want to finish the year strong and climb back up,” Wie said.
Wie, who suffered a “stress reaction” to her right index finger hitting out of a divot at the Marathon Classic in late July, looked good despite a sluggish start last week at the KEB-HanaBank Championship in South Korea, where she finished her first event since Marathon. She tied for fifth after opening with a 76 in high winds.
It was her first start since she re-injured herself and withdrew after 13 holes of the Evian Championship last month.
“I was going to play China and Malaysia [earlier this month], but my doctors told me not to,” Wie said. “I felt really good [in South Korea]. I got to the point where I could play 18 holes without much pain, which is really good. I didn’t think about it. I strengthened it.”
Wie is hoping she knocked off enough rust to make another run this week.
“Every day I felt a little less rusty,” Wie said. “Definitely, some of the mistakes I made on Saturday and Sunday, I don’t think I would’ve made in the heat of the season. I still feel like I’m working on my touch – my wedge game, my short game. I still need to shake some rust off, but everyday feels a little bit better.”