Michelles Day One of Almosts


RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - Michelle Wie had just experienced defeat in the most crushing manner at 16 years of age. She had been around the top spot the entire tournament, been in second or third place throughout, actually had the lead just five holes from the end - and yet was beaten at the 72nd hole by a couple of eagles.
While Karrie Webb and Lorena Ochoa went back to the 18th tee to begin their playoff, Wie trudged behind the scorers tent to face a throng of media who expected to see a young lady in tears. Instead, they saw someone composed, philosophical, and full of praise for both Ochoa and Webb.
Michelle Wie and Natalie Gulbis
Michelle Wie and Natalie Gulbis will each have to wait for their first tour titles.
I was really excited (coming down the stretch of the back nine), she said when she emerged to face the de-briefing. I mean, being in contention of my first major as a professional. Playing with Natalie (Gulbis) and Lorena was super fun. The crowd was really excited. I had a lot of fun out there.
She needed to birdie the final hole, a par-5 over water, to be in the playoff herself. She reached dry land with only a 5-iron, but the ball rolled all the way through the green to perhaps 30 feet away from the hole, with 5 feet of light rough separating her from the putting surface.
She chose to chip it instead of putt it, and the ball rolled 15 feet on the other side of the hole. Then, she barely missed her comeback attempt, closing out the tournament with a par.
I thought I had a little more chance of making it chipping it (which would have given her an eagle and the win), but I had no idea that I was going to leave that shot, she explained her decision to go with a chip instead of utilizing a safer putt. I hit it the way I wanted to. But - it wasnt meant to be.
And the putt, the teenager thought as she completed the stroke, was good. I mean, I hit it exactly like I wanted. The whole day I was missing a little bit on the low side. But this time, I felt so good when I hit it,' she said.
Wie was still tied for the lead on the 16th hole, which is where she was when Webb made her miracle shot. Anyone else would have been devastated. Wie heard the news, was shocked for just a moment ' then grimly went about trying to get a tie.
(Caddy) Greg (Johnston) told me that Karrie had holed out, revealed Michelle. He said, Just so you dont get shocked, Karrie holed it on the 18th.
She laughed, reliving the astonishment she had felt at the moment. Wie had just hit her approach shot on the 16th ' a par 4 ' to within inches of the hole. But instead of tapping in the birdie and being again in the lead, she was behind by two shots as she bent over the short roller.
I thought, Did she get it in 2? What did she do? Michelle found herself asking Johnston. Im like, I cant believe it. She did awesome.
You know, she didnt play her greatest yesterday (when Webb shot 76). But she came back, and that shows how great a player she is.
And Wie had only the best of words for Ochoa. Its awesome, Michelle said of the Mexican native. She didnt play as well as she did the last couple of days. But that last hole ' I mean, she hit that 5-wood (on the 72nd hole) perfectly. It was pretty cool.
Ochoa herself had praised Wie profusely after Saturdays round when the two played together.
You know, Lorena said, we just were trying to joke around and I was telling my caddy, Sometimes you don't realize she's 16. I don't think we all realize she's only 16. You know, for her, she has a great game and it's great all she has done at 16 years old. I really admire her game and her being out here.
Wie realizes that there will be lots more of the heartbreaks than there will be celebrations. She knows that the greatest of players only win about one-third of the time ' which means they will fail two-thirds of the time. And at 16 years of age, the time will come for both in the future.
Im happy with the way I played, she said. It was my first major as a professional. But right now, I wish Id played a little better on the last nine holes.
But Im happy with the way I finished. And if I dont get disqualified in the next five minutes - I think Ill get some money!
She laughed at that one, alluding to her first tournament as a professional when she was disqualified after she had finished. That time she was out the fourth-place money. This time, she won $108,222 for finishing in a third-place tie with Gulbis.
You know, Karrie holing it out, Lorena eagling the last hole, me not making that putt ' I mean, maybe its just not meant to be. But I played my hardest out there.
So, when will it happen for Wie, who at 16 has had enough drama for someone three times her age?
I guess .. Ill just have to wait a little longer.
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