Michelle Wie relishes win in Hawaii
OK, now this could be fun. And when was the last time anyone said that about the LPGA Tour and really meant it?
Surely you could not have watched Michelle Wie's unabashed joy after coming from four strokes back in the final round Saturday to win the LPGA Lotte Championship and not feel the surge of energy currently coursing through women's golf.
If 19-year-old Lexi Thompson's first major championship two weeks ago at the Kraft Nabisco gave the tour, presently chock full of prodigies, a real reason to be optimistic about the future, then Wie's victory gave it a jolt from the past.
Playing in her native Hawaii, the 24-year-old earned her third career tour victory and first on U.S. soil, almost shocking for those of us who remember well when Wie played in the final group of the Kraft Nabisco at age 13 and soon after became golf's "It Girl."
She was a pro at 15, over-hyped and -- gifted as she was -- under-prepared for the pressure that came with endorsement deals worth more than $10 million a year. Then came the whole competing-on-the-men's-tour thing -- in which she missed the cut in 11 of 12 tournaments -- and just two LPGA victories through her first five years on tour. The most positive thing to come out of her career through 2012 was a Stanford degree.
Wie's determination since then, and results this year with finishes no lower than 16th in six events -- including a finals-pairing showdown with Thompson at the Kraft Nabisco that came up three strokes short -- has been a revelation for both Wie and women's golf.
And now, ironically, the tour can finally cash in on the always-popular Wie's comeback as well as a slate of top 10 golfers that, week to week, has a legitimate chance to win.
Wie's gallery always has been impressive, but lately it is back to being electric and there is no reason to think it won't build from here. Even her competition has seemingly rallied around her, a 16-year-old Lydia Ko calling Wie her idol, and the usually-all-business Cristie Kerr hugging Wie after her final putt in Kapolei on Saturday under a shower of Moet supplied by best pal Christina Kim.
"I was kind of thinking what I was going to do after I made the putt," Wie said. "Was I going to jump up and down? I made the putt and I just froze. I completely just froze. I couldn't move my body. I was about to cry and ... my friends out here are just amazing. I feel so much support from them. We support each other through hard times and good times."
Surely, women's golf also knows hard times, and it deserves good times. Kicked in the shins again recently when Golf Digest -- which hasn't had a woman golfer on its cover since Lorena Ochoa in 2008 -- chose to feature a provocatively posed fiancé of a men's pro golfer this month, the LPGA has every reason to feel good about its overall attractiveness.
It is youthful, competitive and after the last two weeks, very, very interesting.
"I just had fun out there," Wie said. "I had a blast."
A good thing all the way around.