PINEHURST, N.C. — Michelle Wie is the U.S. Women's Open champion.
That might take a while to sink in.
"Oh my God, I can't even think straight," Wie said Sunday after a two-shot victory over Stacy Lewis to claim her first major title.
Wie is no longer the wonder girl who once wanted to play against the guys. She's no longer the 17-year-old who walked off the course in tears at the U.S. Women's Open seven years ago, her career in tatters, or a golfer whose name always has carried more magic than her game.
"I can't believe this is happening," Wie said.
Wie, 24, finally delivered a performance worthy of the attention heaped on her since she qualified for the Women's Amateur at 10. She closed with par 70 for a total of 2-under 278 on Pinehurst No. 2 — she was the only golfer to finish under par — and kept her composure after a double-bogey at the 16th to beat Lewis, the No. 1-ranked player, who made Wie work for the win by making eight birdies in a round of 66.
"I think it's great for the game of golf," Lewis said of Wie's win. "I think it's even better for women's golf. I'm so happy for Michelle Wie. I mean, this has been such a long time coming for her."
Wie has been one of the biggest stars in women's golf since she was 13 and played in the final group of a major. Her popularity soared along with criticism when she competed against the men on the PGA Tour while in high school and talked about wanting to play in the Masters.
Wie had chance to win this title when she was a 15-year-old amateur at Cherry Hills and a 16-year-old pro at Newport. The last time she was in this area, she opened with 82 at Pine Needles in 2007 and walked off the course the next day because of injuries.
Her previous best Open finish was a tie for third in 2006. Twice she withdrew (2007 and 2013), and twice she missed the cut (2008 and 2010).
Wie started the final round tied with Amy Yang at 2 under. She had the lead by herself when Yang made double bogey on No. 2 and didn't let anyone catch her the rest of the day.
But it all nearly unraveled on 16. From a fairway bunker, holding a three-shot lead, she stayed aggressive and hit hybrid from the sand.
"I was kind of a dummy for not laying up when I was in that situation," she said. "And it kind of bit me in the butt. But I laughed it off. Stuff like that does happen."
The only time panic began to set in was when no one could find her ball. It finally was found after a three-minute search, buried in a wiregrass bush. She took a penalty drop behind her in the fairway to limit the damage, chipped to about 35 feet and ran that putt some 5 feet by the hole.
Miss the next one and she would have been tied with Lewis. She poured it in to avoid her first three-putt of the week.
At No. 17, she faced a 25-foot birdie putt that was fast and dangerous. She pumped her fist when it fell, then pounded her fist twice to celebrate the moment.
"That kind of emotion, that kind of pressure … I'll think of that putt as one of the best putts I've ever hit in my life," she said.
"I think that without your downs, without the hardship, I don't think you appreciate the ups and much as you do," Wie said, the gleaming trophy at her side. "I think the fact that I struggled so much, the fact that I kind of went through a hard period of my life, the fact that this trophy is right next to me, it means so much more to me than it ever would have when I was 15."