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Wie lives up to the hype at Solheim


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POSTED: Monday, August 24, 2009

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. » This was the Michelle Wie everyone was waiting to see.

Freed up by the support of her teammates, Wie played with the skill, confidence and daring that has long been expected of her in leading the United States to a 16-12 win over Europe in the Solheim Cup.

She went 3-0-1 in her Solheim debut — the best performance by any American — and looks primed to finally deliver on her considerable promise.

“;People have seen a different side of me,”; Wie said after her tough, 1-up victory over former Europe captain Helen Alfredsson yesterday. “;It's just been a lot of fun. ... This week in general has given me such a confidence boost.”;

Wie has been saddled since grade school with the burden of being the female equivalent of Tiger Woods.

But at 19, the LPGA Tour rookie is still looking for her first professional victory. Injuries and other missteps had some wondering if she would eventually find her stride or be the latest phenom to flame out.

Based on this week, it's not even a question.

“;I would bet you a large amount of money that Michelle will win before the year is out,”; Juli Inkster said after the Americans won their third straight Solheim Cup.

Wie drew one of the toughest assignments yesterday. Not only was she the third American out, she was playing Alfredsson. And on the par-5 No. 2, Alfredsson let Wie know this wasn't going to be a gimme, putting her second shot 4 feet from the pin.

Not to be outdone, Wie hit to 3 feet.

“;I think that second shot was the best shot I've ever hit. Ever,”; Wie said as a few teammates nodded their heads.

That eagle set the tone, and Wie was up 3 after six holes. But Alfredsson capitalized on Wie's poor tee shot on No. 8, and the match was squared after the 11th hole.

Wie's drive on the par-5 15th was so long — 305 yards — she needed only an 8-iron to reach the green. Yes, an 8-iron. She two-putted from 20 feet for the eagle and the lead.

Alfredsson hit a bad tee shot on 16, a par 3, allowing Wie to pick up another hole and guarantee that, at worst, she'd get a half-point out of the match.

She lost the 17th hole, but hit another bomb on 18. She hit her approach to 25 feet below the hole, and left it 2 feet short. Alfredsson's 35-foot eagle putt was short, too, and Wie tapped in to win the match.

As impressive as Wie's play has been her attitude. Though Wie lets loose with the occasional fist pump, she often comes across as aloof or reserved.

Not this week.

She may not ever be as energetic as Christina Kim — then again, who is? — but she was animated from the minute she walked onto the first tee Friday morning.

When she and Kim won their fourball match Saturday, it was Wie who turned to the crowd and cupped her hand to her ear, asking for more noise. She laughed when fans gave her her own cheer, a loud “;Wheee!”;

And when the Americans had clinched their victory yesterday, she grabbed a big American flag and ran around the 18th green.

“;I feel like I played great this week, and hopefully that will carry over,”; Wie said. “;But you never know about golf. You can have a good week, you can have a bad week. But I know I had fun this week. I know I tried my hardest.”;