LPGA FIELDS OPEN: WIE FINISHES THIRD
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
At the third and final round of the Fields Open at Ko Olina, Michelle Wie reacted to barely missing her putt.
Wie: So close
Michelle Wie storms back to tie for the lead, but ultimately comes up short
>> Biggest fan follows the phenom
Michelle Wie is the Omega Woman, but she's got no problem with the Rolex World Rankings.
And maybe there is something to the controversial new rating system; it has Wie posted as the No. 3 woman golfer on the planet, and that's where she finished in the Fields Open in Hawaii at Ko Olina resort yesterday, with a three-round total of 13-under-par 213.
Of course, No. 1 Annika Sorenstam wasn't here, and, yes, Wie's hard-charging 6-under 66 came at her most familiar haunt. Also, a missed putt here and there -- especially the one at No. 18 -- kept Wie out of the winner's circle. Meena Lee of South Korea earned that honor, after outlasting countrywoman Seon Hwa Lee through the third hole of a sudden-death playoff.
For Wie -- sporting a diamond-studded Omega watch from the company with which she just signed an endorsement deal -- it was a case of running out of time, measured figuratively in holes.
"Right now, I'm sitting here, I really wish it was a 72-hole event," she said afterward.
Wie had just spent the previous four hours chasing down most of the leaders, only to fall one stroke short of playing extra holes for the championship.
There was a five-way tie for first, including Wie, late in the day. If she'd made an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 18, it would've been a Wie-Lee-Lee playoff.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Michelle Wie celebrated after making a long birdie putt yesterday during the third and final round of the Fields Open at Ko Olina.
Wie's showing was impressive overall, and the second-best round of the day to the winner's 65. The 16-year-old Punahou junior was in just her second LPGA event as a pro, and she started the day tied for ninth, six strokes off the pace.
The sheer numbers going into the round dictated that Wie wouldn't win, but she made it interesting with a solid and sometimes spectacular round ... coupled with the inability of others to grab the lead and run home with it.
Wie also shook off any notion of added pressure because she was playing with fellow teen phenom Morgan Pressel, 17, a tour rookie.
Pressel and Wie both tapped in birdies on the par-5 No. 1, but Wie gradually pulled away from her rival, who shot 71 and finished tied for 11th.
"I played awesome today," said Wie, who fired seven birdies and had just one bogey. "I felt I played very solid today, but unfortunately, not the way I wanted it to turn out. I'm happy with the way I played. ... I know what to work on for the next tournament, so I feel ready."
Wie finished with a paycheck of $73,227, and wishing her next tournament, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, was next week instead of March 30-April 2.
"Well, with this round I want to play next week because I feel I'm right on my game," said Wie, who did not play in last week's SBS Open at Turtle Bay, which started the LPGA season for most tour players.
The Nabisco will be another chance for her to become the youngest player to win an LPGA event.
On this day, close seemed good enough, at least for Wie.
"There is a lot of what-if, what-if, would have been, it would be nice," said Wie, who added that she has been working with psychologist Jim Loehr. "It would have been awesome if I had won, but unfortunately it didn't happen this week, but hopefully it will happen in the next one."
Or the next one after that. Or after that.
Although the clock ran out on Wie yesterday, she understands she's got a lot of it left -- and a nice timepiece with which to track it. She said she looked at it more than the leaderboard.
"Basically, I was checking out what time it was. My watch is so cool," she said. "The scoreboard, I didn't pay that much attention to. ... Toward the end I saw the scoreboard and I was tied for the lead and I thought, 'Right on.' I felt comfortable out there."
Biggest fan follows the phenom
An Ala Wai Golf Course worker always keeps Michelle Wie's fortunes at heart
Leonore Ogawa has seen dozens of kids play the Ala Wai Golf Course, but she has only ever been awestruck by one -- a certain 7-year-old who used to play religiously alongside her parents with the confidence of an adult.
Nearly a decade later, Ogawa is still hooked on Michelle Wie's game.
And yesterday, Ogawa's colleagues at the Ala Wai Golf Club surprised her by covering her work shift so that she could stand like a proud parent on the fairway in Ko Olina to see Wie golf among the world's greatest women players.
"It was such an awesome experience," said Ogawa, a longtime sales associate at the Ala Wai Golf Club. "It's just like the feeling of being a parent -- to watch her excel. It was extra-special when she did well."
Ogawa was one of hundreds of Wie fans in the islands who followed the golfer through the Fields Open yesterday, watching her in person or on television.
At the Eastside Grill in Manoa, a few tables of Wie supporters gathered to watch the golfer finish in third place. Fans also came to the Ala Wai Golf Club's eatery, where amateur golfers marveled at Wie's strokes over popcorn and beer.
"She's got the total package," said Honolulu resident Charles Chong, between bites of chicken and rice at Eastside Grill. "She's got the game. She's got the presence. She's got attitude. And she's a good role model."
Richard Hiromoto and Cliff Hironaki went to Ko Olina on Friday to see Wie play, and decided to work on their own game yesterday.
But as they watched Wie advance from sixth place yesterday on a television at the Ala Wai Golf Club, they both wished they had driven out to the Fields Open for a second day.
As Ogawa drove back to town after the tournament yesterday, she still couldn't believe her colleagues had chipped in so that she could see Wie play.
"She was exceptional," Ogawa said, with a laugh.
Long before Wie turned professional last year, Ogawa has been known in local golfing circles as the golfer's biggest fan -- a label she doesn't dispute.
Ogawa collects scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings about Wie and attends as many of the Punahou School junior's games in Hawaii as she can. Often, Ogawa yells out Wie's name during a break in play to get a friendly wave out of the golfer.
When Ogawa thinks back on Wie's early years playing at the Ala Wai Golf Course, she's not surprised Wie has made it so far.
"I've never seen anybody who was as dedicated and really interested in the game like she was," Ogawa said. "There was something different about her."