PINEHURST, N.C. — Michelle Wie picked up all sorts of believers in the U.S. Women’s Open.
She won her first major championship, using an eagle to fend off a charge from the world’s top-ranked female player and a late birdie on the way to Sunday’s victory.
A decade removed from arriving on the women’s golf circuit as a teenage standout, Wie finally secured the coveted result.
“Obviously, there are moments of doubt in there,” Wie said. “I had so many people surrounding me … they never lost faith in me. That’s what pushed me forward.”
Some fans near the 18th green chanted “We Believe! We Believe!” — or maybe that should be “Wie Believe!”
She posted an even-par 70 in the final round at Pinehurst No. 2, winning by two shots over Stacy Lewis.
“It’s all a blur right now, but it was fun,” Wie said.
It capped an historic two-week stretch with the men first playing the same course for the U.S. Open.
In her 10 previous U.S. Women’s Opens, Wie, a 24-year-old Hawaiian, had never
finished better than tied for third place and that was eight years ago.
She was 2-under 278 for the 2014 tournament.
“I definitely got a lot of goosebumps walking up 18 because I thought to myself how cool it was,” Wie said.
There were several contenders surfacing on the last day, most notably top-rated Lewis.
Wie posted an eagle on the par-5 10th hole, establishing a four-stroke lead after Lewis took a bogey a few holes in front of her. Wie held a similar lead at the same stage a day earlier before ending the third round tied atop the leaderboard.
This time, she held steady — though a double-bogey on No. 16 created a degree of drama after a long search for her ball that resulted in taking an unplayable lie when it was found. She birdied the next hole — a par-3 — to re-build a two-stroke edge.
“I like to make it hard on myself,” Wie said, though pointing out she felt comfortable at No. 17 with three pars earlier in the tournament.
Veteran golfer Juli Inkster, who entered the round within four shots of the lead, said Wie is a deserving champion.
“She took a lot of bashing early on (in her career) and she just persevered,” Inkster said.
After 10 top-10 finishes in her first 37 majors, this will be the most memorable for Wie.
Lewis’ birdie on No. 13 had pulled her within a shot of the lead before Wie’s eagle and a bogey for Lewis.
Lewis posted a 66, finishing with birdies on the last two holes. She was even-par 280 for four rounds.
Lewis’ last-day score matched Inkster’s mark from a day earlier as the lowest round in the tournament. When she finished, Lewis trailed by three shots as Wie had six holes to complete.
“I knew I needed to get out early and post some numbers and make Michelle Wie earn it,” Lewis said.
Wie took a bogey on the first hole Sunday, but she didn’t let that derail her despite several golfers emerging as the potential prime contenders.
Third-round co-leader Amy Yang dropped quickly with a bogey and double bogey.
So Yeon Ryu, the 2011 champion from South Korea, moved to second place based on three birdies across the first four holes.
Lewis, who was the first-round leader, had four birdies on the front side in the last round to rise into the mix. She won the ShopRite LPGA Classic three weeks earlier.
Northern Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow posted 1-under 69 in the final round. The recent Alabama graduate, competing in her first event as a professional, ended up in third place at 1-over.
Yang was fourth at 2-over following a 74 in the last round.
Inkster was in position to become the tournament’s first top-10 finisher after reaching age 50. Instead, she shot 75 and ended up tied for 15th place at 7-over.
Inkster, who turns 54 years old Tuesday, said this would be her 35th and final U.S. Women’s Open. She shared third place entering the last round.
Inkster said she was disappointed that she couldn’t come through for an adoring crowd.
“They were pulling for me,” she said. “It’s really hard to acknowledge them when you’re 5-over par and struggling. … It’s been really a fun week and that’s what I’ll remember.”
Scotland’s Catriona Matthew shot a 66 on Sunday, tying for 11th place. Like Wie, she had an eagle on No. 10.