At the LPGA's season-opening SBS Open, Michelle Wie had the lead heading to the back nine in the final round, but she couldn't close the deal for her first tournament win since 2003. Five months later LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens resigned under pressure with the tour facing mass defections by sponsors and a contracting schedule. Shortly after that, an LPGA official connected the dots, sighing, "You know, if Michelle had won the SBS, Carolyn would still have a job."
Much has been expected of Wie since she played her first LPGA event, at age 12. Her parents, handlers and an overheated media machine anointed her a crossover star. Instead, injuries and controversy conspired to make Wie a cautionary tale about too much—hype, money, pressure—too soon. But with her long-awaited first pro victory on Sunday at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, Wie, 20, now begins her second act. First, though, take a moment first to appreciate how far she's come.
Her victory at the Guadalajara (Mexico) Country Club was a testament to the maturation and refinement of Wie's game. She mashed 300-yard drives but also showed off beautiful distance control with her irons, an imaginative short game and a newfound flair for putting. More striking was the palpable joy she displayed on the course. Wie admits there were plenty of times in the past when she didn't want to play, but this season she has fallen back in love with the game. It helps that she has a happy, well-rounded life. She's in her third year at Stanford and has an eclectic group of friends who care little about golf. The awkward tween phenom has grown into a witty, winsome young woman.
With one victory Wie has instantly remade herself as one of golf's most compelling figures. She may or may not live up to the expectations of her, but it at least seems clear now that Wie will enjoy the journey.