Michelle Wie teed off on the first hole during yesterday's final round.
Wie ties for fifth
She needed a birdie at 18 to join a playoff with Webb and eventual winner Pak
HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. » Michelle Wie keeps knocking at the door to victory, especially in LPGA major championships. One of these days, it's going to open.
She still is chasing her first win in a professional golf tournament, but based on yesterday's performance at the LPGA Championship, she might not have to wait much longer.
"I feel like I'm getting closer and closer," she said.
The Honolulu teenager tied for fifth, shooting even-par 72 in the final round for a total of 6-under 282 at Bulle Rock Golf Course, where she was second in this event last year to winner Annika Sorenstam. Wie earned $57,464.
Despite missing some key putts, Wie came to 18 within striking distance, needing a birdie to get into a playoff with Se Ri Pak and Karrie Webb, who tied at 8-under 280.
Korea's Pak became a three-time winner by beating Australia's Webb on the first hole -- the 18th -- of the sudden-death playoff. Pak also won in 1998 and 2002.
Wie hit her tee shot at No. 18 into the left rough, not far from water bordering the hole on that side. She lofted her approach shot onto the green 50 feet short of the pin.
"It was a really hard shot to judge because you're not really sure if it's going to fly out of that rough," she said. "It was lying pretty low, so I thought it was going to go a little bit more than that. I couldn't really be aggressive."
Her birdie putt missed close on the left side of the cup and went eight feet past the hole. It was a valiant attempt. She gave it a good ride, determined not to leave it short.
Wie thought when she hit it that it had a chance.
"I hit it right where I wanted," she said. "I didn't think it was going to be that fast. But I thought it was going to go in."
She missed the 8-footer coming back and settled for bogey.
"Today was really fun, even though it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to," Wie said. "I think it was a very successful week. It kind of showed that even though if I don't play my greatest, I'm still in the top five."
Three-time defending champion Sorenstam tied for ninth at 5-under 283.
At 16, Wie was bidding to become the youngest winner of a major championship, including men or women. She would have been the 28th player to capture an LPGA major for her first pro victory since the LPGA Tour started in 1950.
This was Wie's 10th appearance in an LPGA major.
She now has six top-10 finishes, including two this year. She tied for third in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the year's first major, in April.
Wie has some definite ideas about what it will take for her to make the next step, from top five to the winner's circle.
"It's hitting the shots when I need to and making putts early on," she said. "Just being ahead of the pack early on, playing good rounds early on."
In Wie's immediate future is a trip to New York City, where she will spend the next few days filming two commercials.
One is for Nike. The other is for Shin Young, a Korean real estate developer.
Afterward, she will relax at Nemacolin Resort and Spa in Farmington, Pa., where she will play Sept. 14-17 in the 84 Lumber Classic, a PGA Tour event.
It's been a busy time for Wie.
A week ago, she unsuccessfully attempted to qualify for the men's U.S. Open over 36 holes in one day at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J.
"It was quite a week," Wie said. "I'm glad to have a good two weeks off."
She's earned it.
There was plenty of pressure to keep grinding yesterday, even when things didn't go well.
Wie started yesterday's round at 6-under 210, tied for third with Korea's Shi Hyun Ahn and Mi Hyun Kim, her Saturday playing partners, and one shot behind leaders Ai Miyazato of Japan and Pat Hurst. Wie played yesterday in the next-to-last twosome with Ahn.
Wie tied with Ahn, Cristie Kerr and Hurst.
For the leaders yesterday, it was a war of attrition.
An inauspicious start at the first hole, where she made bogey, had Wie playing catch-up from the outset of her round.
Following the bogey, she made six consecutive pars, then birdie at the par-5 eighth, her first all week at that hole. That brought a big cheer from the crowd and put a big smile on Wie's face.
She made the turn at even par for the day and 6 under for the tournament.
A bogey at 10 was costly, but she rebounded with a run of birdie-par-birdie-par-birdie that left her at 2 under for the day and 8 under for the tournament.
Wie's 30-foot birdie at No. 13 looked at the time as if it might be a catalyst. But a bogey at No. 16, where she rimmed out a 4-footer for par, was crucial.
"Today, it was really frustrating that I couldn't get my putting going on a couple holes, on many holes," Wie said. "So, it was very frustrating in that sense, but I still felt like I learned something."
She made par at 17, setting the stage for the possibility of a dramatic finish as large crowds watched at the final hole.
It was not surprising that Wie mounted a charge on the back nine.
Over four rounds, she played the front in 1-under-par and the back in 5-under.
To her credit, Wie improved her performance yesterday on the par-5s, where she was able to take advantage of how far she hits the ball.
She made three birdies and a par at Bulle Rock's four longest holes after registering a total of three birdies on the par-5s the first three rounds.
One of them yesterday was another head-turner at the 596-yard No. 11, where she pounded a 348-yard drive. Her second shot was on the green, about 40 feet from the pin.
She lagged to a couple feet and sank the putt for birdie.
As for her putting, it came under scrutiny all week, including at Canoe Brook, where she left some shots on the greens, as she did at Bulle Rock.
Yesterday, she needed 35 putts. Her round Saturday included 31 putts. She took 28 Friday and 32 in the first round for a total of 126.
She said during yesterday's round that she felt she hit every putt where she wanted.
"It felt like every putt was going to go in," Wie said. "But it just didn't. That's what happens. So I'll have to work on my putting a little bit so hopefully in the next two weeks at the U.S. (Women's) Open I'll be putting well."
Wie will compete in the final two LPGA majors of the year.
First will be the U.S. Women's Open Championship June 29-July 2 at Newport (R.I.) Country Club. The Aug. 3-6 Weetabix Women's British Open in Lancashire, England, is the year's fourth and final major.
In preparation for the U.S. Open, besides putting, Wie will practice her wedge shots.
"I know what I have to work on for the next two weeks," she said. "I'm really excited for the U.S. Open."