If there had been one criticism of Michelle Wie's game this summer, it has been her inability to close.
She shared the lead after three rounds at the U.S. Women's Open three weekends ago but shot a final-round 82. She was in position to make the cut at the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic last weekend but played the final four holes 3-over-par and missed the cut by two strokes.
Wie, 15, closed the deal in another men's event yesterday.
She did it theatrically, rolling in a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th green to win her first-round match in the 80th U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Shaker Run Golf Club in Lebanon, Ohio, defeating Will Claxton, 1-up.
Wie, the No. 55 seed and lone female in the field, plays C.D. Hockersmith, the No. 23 seed, at 9:09 a.m. today. A win would place her in a third-round match this afternoon at 1:20, another step closer to the Masters invitation that has traditionally gone to the men's Public Links winner.
A Baltimore-area teen also figured in a close match that, compared to the gallery following Wie, few saw yesterday. Ki Moon, from Waverly Woods Golf Club in Marriottsville, lost 1-up to Anthony Kim, 20, of La Quinta, Calif., the medalist during stroke play.
"Wow, that was hard," an exhausted but smiling Wie said as she faced the torrent of reporters and camera crews following her. "It was really tough out there."
That was an understatement.
Wie trailed the majority of the match, which began in a steady drizzle that became a steady rain by the back nine, and she did not take a lead until dropping a 5-foot birdie putt on the 410-yard 15th hole. Claxton, 23, who graduated from Auburn in May, squared the match on the 441-yard 16th, making a twisting 40-footer for birdie. That was the ninth straight hole that had been won/lost by the pairing. Wie halved the 497-yard, par-5 17th, making a clutch up-and-down save from an awkward side-hill lie in a green-side bunker.
Wie drove to the right side of the fairway on the 18th, then faced a second shot of 180 yards to a green guarded by water on the left and behind. She struck a low 6-iron, which hit and stopped 15 feet to the right of a pin tucked in the back of the green.
"She just punched a 6-iron in there," said Claxton, seeded 10th. "That was an incredible shot."
Claxton hit the green in two but was left with an uphill 25-footer. He came up short, then watched Wie knock her putt dead center. Wie, normally stoic, accentuated the winning putt with a Tiger-like fist pump as the pro-Wie gallery of about 600 roared.
Claxton handled the celebrity pairing with the clicking cameras and a scurrying gallery well enough. The competitors did not banter during the match, although Claxton tried as the two walked off the first tee.
"I asked her if she had to deal with this every day," Claxton said.
"She just said, 'Yes,' and kept on walking."
And now, a step closer to history.
U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links: Co-medalists Mari Chun and Angela Park easily won their first-round matches in Kansas City, Mo.
Chun, 17, from Hawaii, defeated Patty Chawalitmetha of Bellflower, Calif., 4 and 3. Park, 16, from Torrance, Calif., birdied four of the first five holes at Swope Memorial in a 7 and 6 victory over Felicia Johnston of Tigard, Ore.
Also advancing to the second round was Taiwan's Ya-Ni Tseng, 16, who beat Wie in last year's final. Tseng, who struggled to qualify with a 10-over 152 for 36 holes of stroke play, defeated Sung Lee of Tacoma, Wash., 3 and 1.
Off the course
LPGA: Teenager Morgan Pressel received good news and bad news yesterday from the tour.
Commissioner Ty Votaw notified her that her petition for a waiver of the tour's 18-year-old age restriction will be granted, allowing her to go to the tour's qualifying school in the fall.
But, Votaw told her, if she wins exempt or conditional status at Q-school, she won't be allowed play the tour as a member until she turns 18 on May 23, about one-third into the season.
World Golf Hall of Fame: Four-time British Open champion Willie Park Sr., architect Alister Mackenzie and British journalist Bernard Darwin were selected to enter the shrine Nov. 14 at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla.
Darwin and Mackenzie will be inducted through the lifetime achievement category, and Park will enter through the veteran's category. They'll be inducted posthumously.
Other members of the class include Vijay Singh, Karrie Webb and Japanese star Ayako Okamoto, who were selected in May.
Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press and South Florida Sun-Sentinel contributed to this article.