Wie finds answers, finally!

Wie finds answers, finally!


It was a good cell phone signal that bounced off the satellite from somewhere outside Guadalajara, Mexico, last Sunday night. It carried a voice that sounded much the way Michelle Wie's voice used to sound, before all the pressure got to it and drained the youthful spontaneity right out of it.

There was a smile and a laugh back in the voice now. It resonated with pure joy as Wie described the sensation of standing on the 18th green at Guadalajara Country Club two hours earlier after birdieing the final hole to win the Lorena Ochoa Invitational and raising her first professional trophy — something she and so many others believed she would have done a long time ago.

"It was s-o-o-o awesome," she said, drawing out the word as though letting out a deep, long-held breath, then repeating: "So awesome. It was everything I had dreamed it would be."

Wie, 20, can breathe now. A onetime child sensation who finished ninth in a women's major championship at 13, who nearly made the cut at a men's PGA Tour event at 14, who turned professional at 15 and made $19 million in endorsement money at 16, Wie has now finished first. In doing so, she has relaunched her career and brightened the prospects of the LPGA Tour, which is in need of genuine star power.

That Wie has the ability to generate ratings has never been in doubt. It was the victory thing that had sponsors, tour officials and other supporters holding their breath. In her 42 LPGA appearances since 2005, Wie had zero victories.

Finally, she was able to summon all the talent and belie all the fears and self-doubt that had crept into her game. Finally, she turned an overnight lead into a victory, completing the turnaround programme that began even before she announced in late 2008 that she was going to attend the LPGA Qualifying School and earn her way on to the tour for 2009.

Going to Q-school was an important symbolic gesture. By doing it, Wie signalled that she was no longer content to accept the sponsor's exemptions that had earned her little beyond the jealousy and contempt of many of her peers and the growing scorn of the public that had cheered her as a teenager but was turning on her as she continued to fail to meet their — and her own — expectations. That she was going to earn her own way, to work for whatever she would get, was to be the catalyst for success.

Wie, who as a 14-year-old was unfairly compared to Tiger Woods, decided to embark on a path Woods would admire. The maturity that came with the decision served to give Wie back her burning drive to succeed and temper her fear of failure. No longer playing to merely make the cut, Wie nearly won right out of the blocks at the season opener in Hawaii. She began to hit the shots she needed to hit and make the putts she needed to make, and she put together eight top-10 finishes in 18 starts.

"She's managed to see her way through it," said David Leadbetter, her longtime swing instructor. "She's a fighter, you know, and when there's been adversity, she has always seemed determined to come through it.

"Michelle has been through a lot in her young life," Leadbetter said. "Only 20, and it seems like she's been around for years. All the ups and downs, and there have been quite a lot of critics saying things like, 'She's never going to win.' It's been a real learning experience for her."

At the Solheim Cup this year, Wie had the opportunity to not just learn, but to show some of her former detractors on the LPGA Tour that she had matured, and was not now -- and perhaps never was -- the self-absorbed, arrogant child she seemed when she declined to apologise to Annika Sorenstam for withdrawing from her tournament in 2007.

Wie was the model teammate in her first Solheim Cup, and her 3-0-1 record in the matches led the US team over Europe and earned the respect of many veterans. All that helped when she had to birdie the final hole to close with a 69 to get her first win, by two strokes over Paula Creamer.

"I put a lot of hours into it," Wie said of her first victory. "It was worth all the work, all the tears, sweat, everything. This is the exact reason why I put so much into this and it just feels so unbelievable to have it happen." How unbelievable? Wie unleashed what might be a record length "Woo-hoo!" on Twitter, punctuating the tweet with a total of 44 o's. She has her voice back. "I feel like a winner," she said.