Australian Ladies Professional Golf
Near misses for Australians as Wie triumphs
Date: 23rd June 2014
By: Martin Blake / www.golf.org.au

Aaron Baddeley
Aaron Baddeley
It was a day of near-misses and disappointments for Australians in America. At the US Women's Open, both Minjee Lee and Karrie Webb dropped away on the final day leaving Michelle Wie to win her first major, while Aaron Baddeley finished fourth in the Travelers Championship.

Eighteen-year-old Lee, playing just her second major championship and still an amateur, carded a final-round 76 at Pinehurst to finish tied-22nd in the US Open, a remarkable feat for one so inexperienced at the level. But the Perth wunderkind would have been disappointed, for her expectations are high.

Starting out the final day just four shots from the lead and knowing that she could potentially get into contention with a score in the 60s, Lee bogeyed four of the first five holes to throw away her chances. She has to be content with T22, but the member of Golf Australia's elite national squad will likely be back on the LPGA Tour next year and contending in more big events.

Webb started five back with a sneaky chance, but she, too struggled on the lightning-quick Pinehurst greens, carding a 77 to finish tied-30th.

But it was Wie's day, the ascension of a young champion to win her national title for the first time. Right from the time she won the US Links championship at 14 and put herself up to play in a string of men's professional events, the long-hitting Hawaiian had been the subject of immense scrutiny without the results to match. But Wie is just 24; she has graduated from university and grown up and away from her overbearing parents. Along with Stacy Lewis the world No. 1, she has been the best player on the women's tour this year.

An eagle at the 10th hole gave her a strangehold on the tournament, although Lewis bolted around in 66 to post an even-par finishing total and fulfill her promise to ''make Michelle earn it''. Wie was a few holes behind in the final group, and a near-disaster at the par-four 16th, where she smacked her approach through the green and took double bogey with a penalty drop, left the possibility of a playoff open.

At the 17th tee, Wie's lead had been trimmed from three to one and Lewis was quietly staying warm on the driving range. Then Wie produced the masterstroke, an eight-metre curling birdie putt at the par-three 17th that rammed into the back of the hole. That meant a comfortable two-shot lead to go down the 18th, and she managed a par with the best walk in golf through the crowd to the final green.

Wie did not three-putt once all week, which was key. For a long time she has been able to overpower courses with her length and her soaring iron shots, but her putting did not match up. Then a little more than a year ago she adopted the idiosyncratic, crouching stance for putting that has caused so much comment; unlike a lot of her career moves it was her own idea. While it looks awful, it has worked for her.

The American has been poorly advised from her teens but she is very wealthy from the cheque Nike gave her when she turned professional. Now after a long journey, she is one of the best players in the world. Legimitately so.

Meanwhile in the Travelers Championship in Connecticut, Baddeley was the last player to yield to American Kevin Streelman, who made an astonishing run of seven consecutive birdies to finish and waited as the final groups could not catch him at 15-under par. Sergio Garcia and KJ Choi came through the 18th needing birdie for a playoff and could not manage it, and then Baddeley, playing in the final group, birdied the 17th to give himself a chance.

But it all went south with his tee shot at the 18th, which flared into the deep, right rough. With no shot to the green, the Australian hacked it up 40 metres short of the green, pitched on but made bogey when he needed birdie for a playoff. He had to be contend with a his best result of the season and his second top-10 finish.

The tour now waits breathlessly for the trumpeted return of Tiger Woods from injury at Congressional this week, leading into the British Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in the next month.

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