RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif.» Hawaii’s Michelle Wie knew she needed to make everything to win her first major yesterday. She made almost nothing and finished sixth at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Wie was alone in third place heading to the 72nd hole at Mission Hills Country Club. Her drive veered right and the ball imbedded just below the lip of the fairway bunker. That led to her only double bogey of the week and she closed with a 3-over-par 75 and alone in sixth.
At 3-under 285 for the tournament, she was 10 shots behind winner Stacy Lewis. The American made the 40th Kraft her first LPGA victory, shooting a final-round 69 to beat Yani Tseng by three shots.
Tseng, defending champion and the top-ranked player in the world, led Lewis by two strokes going into the final day. She shot 74, bogeying the 16th and 17th to erase the drama.
It was the second straight week a non-winner stared down a top player. Last week, unheralded Sandra Gal birdied the final hole to beat second-ranked Jiyai Shin and win the Kia Classic.
Both weeks Wie was in contention but could not finish, particularly on the putting green. She was not alone yesterday.
WIE IN THE MONEY
Michelle Wie hasn’t won yet, but she is sixth on the LPGA’s money list after five events:
1. Yani Tseng, $570,478
2. Karrie Webb, $486,443
3. Stacy Lewis, $371,690
4. Sandra Gal, $302,379
5. I.K. Kim, $271,144
6. Michelle Wie, $258,881
Wie, a 21-year-old Stanford senior ranked ninth in the world, and Morgan Pressel, a 22-year-old ranked 14th, played together in the next-to-last group. It was a wild ride.
Wie blew her first drive far past Pressel’s, hit her approach to 4 feet and missed the birdie putt, while Pressel one-putted for par.
A fan watched Wie’s putt and shook his head. "That’s it," he said. "She’s done."
Wie was six shots back of Tseng at the time, with 4 hours remaining.
The Punahou graduate drove the par-5 second in two and two-putted for birdie while Pressel one-putted again for the same score.
By the fifth hole, Pressel was 10 under for the tournament, four shots ahead of Wie, three off the lead and making every putt in sight. Then she pushed her approach shot into the rocks and water fronting No. 6 and took triple bogey.
While Wie kept burning edges with her putts — "All day, all weekend I was doing that," she said, Pressel mounted another charge. She got back to 10 under again by the 10th hole, where Wie three-putted for the second time in the round and second time all week.
Out of nowhere, Wie dropped a 30-foot eagle putt at the 11th. It would be the highlight of her day, by far. She missed four of the last five fairways and played the final seven holes in 4 over.
"If I was writing this story," said Wie, a communications major, "there might be a couple swear words in there. But I played well. In the end I kind of got screwed over. On 18 I got screwed over real bad, plugged in the bunker. Aside from that I’m still happy with the way I played."
Pressel, ultimately, was not. Her putting deserted her during a double bogey at the 13th. On the 16th, she yanked her second shot into the houses, hit a tree with her next swing and took quadruple-bogey.
When it was over, a celebratory gang led by Karrie Webb and Meg Mallon was hiding champagne bottles destined for Lewis behind the scoring tent, so Pressel and Wie wouldn’t see them and feel any worse.
Both players managed smiles and acknowledged cheers as they made the most famous walk in women’s golf to the island green on the final hole. Wie even had it in her to sign autographs and have a short interview.
The past two weeks, since she finished finals, have also been productive for Wie. This was her third top-10 finish in four starts this year. It was also her first top-15 finish here, and in a major, since she was 16.
She starts her spring quarter tomorrow. Her life remains a work in unrestrained progress, while her putting continues to hold her back on the golf course. She had 31 putts yesterday — 18 on the front nine — and 114 for the week. That was nine fewer than last week.