KRAFT NABISCO CHAMPIONSHIP
Michelle Wie, left, showed her disappointment yesterday after failing to make a birdie putt on the 18th green during the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Wie ties for third, missing playoff
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. » Michelle Wie doesn't lack for confidence, and sometimes that's her undoing.
Only needing to two-putt from just off the 18th green to join Lorena Ochoa and Karrie Webb in a playoff at yesterday's Kraft Nabisco Championship, Wie opted to chip for the win and wound up sending her golf ball scooting past the hole like it was on a linoleum floor.
The resulting 10-footer for birdie to still tie was just beyond her range, as the putt lipped out, forcing the Punahou School junior to settle for par and a tie for third with Natalie Gulbis. Not that Wie did any second-guessing when asked if she had thought about two-putting. In her mind, that's the way to go.
"I think this is her lack of experience," Wie's father, B.J., said as she spoke with CBS Sports about her final-round 70, which left her at 8-under for the event. "She didn't need to try to win it. All she needed was a two-putt to give her a chance in the playoff. But she is only 16. People are a little impatient, I think, for her to win."
In her last four major championships on the LPGA Tour, Wie has a tie for third at the 2006 Kraft Nabisco, another tie for third at the 2005 Women's British Open, a tie for 23rd at the 2005 U.S. Open after entering the final round tied for first, and a second at the 2005 LPGA Championship.
Only Annika Sorenstam with two wins in those same four events has fared better, and she is not worrying about finishing her math homework this week, as Wie returns to school to complete the 11th grade before rejoining the LPGA Tour this summer.
Still, until Wie gets all these near misses out of her system, the question of holding a trophy aloft is going to hang around like a bad habit.
Take Gulbis as an example. No one talks about the $1 million she pocketed last year without a win. Since joining the tour five years ago, Gulbis is 0-for-110 in events entered, and that's what people whisper whenever she's in the room.
For Wie, she has a lifetime ahead of her to become a major champion.
Though Wie led for a few holes on the back nine, most folks in the media room believed Webb had the best chance to track down the final threesome of Wie, Gulbis and Ochoa because she already had six major titles on her resume.
The fact that she holed it out for eagle from 116 yards away to finish at 9-under 279 only underscored the fact that she came from seven shots back to force a playoff with Ochoa. Unlike Wie on her 30-foot chip from off the green, Webb wasn't trying to hole it.
"I only wanted to get it close for a birdie," Webb said. "It was nice I didn't have to putt it."
Wie needed to putt it, and hopefully her caddie, Greg Johnston, will be able to look her in the eye and convince her of that fact the next time around.
On the bright side, going for it in two at the par-5 18th, instead of laying up and playing it safe, shows Wie has the inner confidence needed to be a champion.
Her drive was long, her 5-iron into the green pure enough, but the chip was that flair for the dramatic that gets Wie into trouble.
As Shakespeare once wrote, "They stumble who run fast."
"I thought I had a little more chance making it chipping, and I had no idea that I was going to leave that shot (10-foot putt for birdie)," Wie said. "I hit it the way I wanted to. I guess it wasn't meant to be.
"Obviously, I was thinking I could make it. And if I didn't make it, birdie. Unfortunately, it got away from me. I think I know what I have to work on now."
One thing she does have going for her that perhaps she didn't before is the ability to bounce back from a mistake. Twice during the final round, she followed up a bogey with a birdie, a statistic most professional golfers believe is key to having good scores by day's end. That, and the key par saves. Wie had several of those as well in this 72-hole event that left her in second place for most of the four days spent at Mission Hills Country Club.
"I'm happy with the way I played in my first major as a professional," Wie said. "Right now, I wish I would have played a little better (over) the final nine holes (which she played in 1 over), but I'm still happy with the way I finished. If I don't get disqualified in the next five minutes, I think I'll get some money."
Yeah, $108,222. And that's not a bad consolation prize for a kid in high school.