You cannot doubt Michelle Wie‘s credentials any longer. While some have questioned her low number of LPGA Tour wins, and others lost interest in her after her attempts to play PGA Tour events, Wie’s win Sunday in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2 removes any doubt about Wie’s career. She may not go on to be one of the all-time leading money winners or major champions, but one major championship under her belt makes any further criticism unwarranted.
Certainly, Wie isn’t going to be confused for the female version of Tiger Woods anytime soon. Of course, Wie now has a major championship more recently than Woods does, who returns to PGA Tour play next week in hopes of playing his first major of 2014 at the British Open in July. But there’s also little reason to compare Wie to Woods. Even if Wie had 14 majors already, Woods would be the bigger star given the amount of attention that is paid to the PGA Tour vs. the LPGA Tour most of the time.
But Wie’s win Sunday, the fourth of her professional career, most importantly gets her into the discussion when talking about the best female golfers currently playing, and with Wie still just 24 years old, that’s more than acceptable. In April, Wie won the LPGA Lotte Championship, by the same two-stroke margin she captured today’s U.S. Open. Wie nearly broke through at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first major on the LPGA Tour, finishing second behind another top young player, Lexi Thompson.
Thompson, Paula Creamer, Inbee Park and Anna Nordqvist have led the way so far this year on the LPGA Tour, but the large payday from winning the U.S. Women’s Open lifts Wie to second on the list, only behind top-ranked player Stacy Lewis. It would have already been a solid year for Wie if it only included her win earlier this season. But adding a major on top of it, especially the U.S. Open, makes this far and away Wie’s greatest season and makes her a factor now in every tournament she plays.
She handled Sunday’s pressure with an excellent level of calmness, even when she double-bogeyed the 16th hole to see her three-shot lead shrink to just one. Her response was even more epic, as she rolled in a birdie putt on 17 to restore her two-shot lead and leave herself three putts to win on the 18th green. The cheering crowd walking up 18 and the greetings from fellow competitors immediately after her victory had to be the highlight for Wie in her career up to his point.
It should give her confidence and a knowledge that she can perform at the highest level in women’s golf. This was the question that had tagged along behind Wie through most of her professional career to this point. Free of that, Wie won’t stop at simply one major championship.