Michelle Wie will arrive at this week's LPGA Tour Championship at the Houstonian Golf and Country Club today as the tour's newly minted champion " and carrying a lot less luggage.
The former teen phenom " who qualified for a USGA event at age 10, played in an LPGA tour event at 12, contended in the Kraft Nabisco Championship at 13 and nearly made a cut in a PGA Tour event at 14 " ended a six-year drought Sunday by winning for the first time as a professional in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Guadalajara, Mexico.
BREAKTHROUGH: Wie claims her first pro victory
HAPPY TIME: Wie's victory Tweets on Twitter
Inspired by her beloved Stanford Cardinal whipping Southern California 55-21, and nursing a sore left ankle " "I was focused on just trying to finish 18 holes," she said " Wie closed with a 3-under-69 to finish at 13-under-par 275 to beat Paula Creamer by two shots.
"It's a huge monkey off my back. A huge gorilla, really," Wie, 20, said by phone from Mexico an hour after her victory. After tapping in for birdie on the final hole, Wie lifted both arms high above her head as tears streamed down her face. "I didn't think I would cry but I did. It was everything I expected and more.
"I'm really proud of myself for not giving up and pushing through. It has been so long overdue."
Wie's last victory came in the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links " in 2003. For a player who moved the needle since she was 12, showed so much promise because of her startling power and poise and told everyone she wanted to play in The Masters, her failure to move into the winner's circle became as much a burden as a pursuit.
Instead of living up to enormous expectation " she signed multimillion-dollar endorsement deals on her 16th birthday in 2005, was in final-round contention in three major championships at 16 and was named in Time magazine in 2006 as "one of 100 people who shape our world" " Wie's tale of glory became a cautionary story as her career spiraled downward.
While her stunning teenage success brought her celebrity and millions of dollars, Wie endured two miserable years marked by injuries, swing changes, public relations nightmares, overexposure and heavily criticized decisions to play against men. Her 2007 season was her worst. She finished the year playing 367 holes in 109 over par, had just two rounds in which she finished under par, and had three missed cuts and two withdrawals.
Wie, however, began authoring a new chapter in her life when she decided to attend Stanford and go through LPGA Q School last December. Although she's been playing on the LPGA tour for eight years, this is her rookie season " one in which she has played solid golf and, just as important, gained credibility among her colleagues, especially when she went 3-0-1 for the victorious USA team in the Solheim Cup.
"I just feel such a wave of relief," said Wie, who won in her 65th LPGA tour start. "There have been a lot of ups and downs. It hasn't been easy. But my family, my friends, my fans, everyone " when I was at my lowest they were always there for me."
Add swing coach David Leadbetter, too. Wie, who has been working with putting guru Dave Stockton this year, paid tribute to Leadbetter as she ticked off the many people who have been by her side.
"I know a lot of people talk about Stockton, but Leadbetter and I have been through a lot together," Wie said. "We've had a lot of ups and downs. But even at my lowest, he never gave up on me. I can't wait to call him."
And she can't wait to get to the golf course. Earning her tour card at Q School gave her confidence. Finishing runner-up twice earlier this year gave her confidence. Leading the red, white and blue in points earned at the Solheim Cup gave her confidence. A victory, however, against a stellar field that included the 36 best players in the world and had Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Cristie Kerr and Jiyai Shin at the top of the leaderboard, is something else.
"I think I'll feel a lot more confident when I go to the golf course, more so than I ever have," Wie said. "I'll know I can do it because I've done it before and I'll know I can do it again. But I do realize I still have a lot to work on and a lot to improve on. I can still get better."
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/golf/lpg ... ence_N.htm