Trophy eludes Wie, but she wins over the crowd
ON the first day of the rest of her young life, Michelle Wie stood over her second shot on the 18th hole of the Fields Open in Hawaii's final round. The whole world within her grasp.
She waggled her iron, and it sparkled in the sun. Everyone waited. They dared not breathe.
And then she swung. High, perfect. Her ball climbed, then hung there. Dancing in the sky.
It landed on the green -- pack! -- and rolled. Rolled. Closer. Closer.
"Holy (expletive)," a photographer said. The shot was that good.
It was golf-as-poetry, that shot. It was the kind of swing that makes you understand why they would name a place "Amen Corner" in this game.
It was the kind of swing that explains why she has the magazine covers, and the millions, and that swoosh on her cap.
Like magic, that ball rolled.
At last it stopped, and the realization hit. Where it was. What this meant. Everyone let his breath out at once. It sounded like a plane taking off.
Wow, it was cool to be there. To feel that.
"The positive energy I received from the crowd today was awesome," Wie would say.
The ball was maybe 8, 9 feet from the cup, and it was the first day of the rest of her life. The whole world within her grasp.
She walked up the fairway and the ovation grew, more, more as she walked. This was it. This was the moment.
She'd climbed up the leaderboard yesterday. She'd made a run. What a run. No one else had seemed to want to seize the day, and so Wie climbed, 66, 5 under for the round. She could see the lead, then tied it. With every birdie, the anticipation in the air had grown more and more delicious. All day, it had been building to this.
"You gotta hand it to her," her former rival Morgan Pressel would say, "she putted really well today."
With each drop in the cup, the expectancy went up another notch.
Wie would later say it felt like she knew half the people in the gallery, walking up 18 to an ovation like that.
The crowd wanted it for her. Everybody did. Steve Kroft, the "60 Minutes" guy who was roaming the course with a camera crew, wanted her to win.
This was it.
"One more birdie!" a man yelled as she passed. "Just close it already!"
She didn't close it out. She missed. She missed, and it wasn't even close.
"I mean, I play here (at Ko Olina) and I putted that putt a lot," Wie would say. "So I felt comfortable over it. And then once I hit it it went in the completely opposite direction I wanted it to. It was supposed to go left to right almost straight, but that thing curved left."
With the tournament on the line, she had to settle for par.
"So I guess that (putt) wasn't meant to be," Wie said.
She went into the scorer's tent with the lead.
She held it for as long as it took the next group of golfers to come in.
She would finish third, out of the first-place playoff by a stroke. That stroke.
(Well, any stroke, actually, of course. She'd had a handful of would-be birdies that could have put her in that playoff field. But that one was the last one, after a magical approach shot, on 18. If she was going to win, she had to make that putt.)
Still sweet 16, she continues to tease us so.
"Well, I mean, there is a lot of what-if, what-if, would-have-been," Wie said. "It would be nice. 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."
Well, hopefully. Until then, Wie continues to tantalize. She continues to come comfortably oh-so-close.
The impressive thing was that she did play so well when she knew she was in the hunt, yesterday. That she made birdies on the back nine even as the pressure intensified -- as she realized this could be the day. She was watching the leaderboard, wasn't she?
"Not really that closely," she said. "Basically I was checking out what time it was. My watch is so cool. I was asking my caddie, 'Do you know what time it is?' The scoreboard, I didn't pay that much attention to."
Well, you have to admire that kind of mind-set, in a way.
But it was a scene of contrasts after she'd signed her scorecard. There was Wie, still comfortable, in her element, getting interviewed again. There was the other teen dream, 17-year-old Pressel, who had won over a lot of Wie fans who had probably started out the day thinking they'd be rooting against her.
Wie was happy, having once again come so close. Pressel was in tears, exasperated at the fact that she'd tied for 11th in a major league event, had shot 1 under par for the day.
"Sorry," Pressel said, swiping at the water on her face. That's just how much she wants to win.
"I played awesome today," Wie would later say. "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 played solid and I know what I want to work on for the next tournament, so I feel ready."