What started as a pursuit of history ended up as a finish for the history books. Nelly Korda made a valiant effort to join her sister Jessica in becoming only the second siblings to win on the LPGA but instead Michelle Wie singed the Sentosa Golf Club Tanjong Course in Singapore with a closing-round 65 on Sunday to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship by one stroke over Korda, Danielle Kang, Brooke Henderson and Jenny Shin.
Wie, playing a hole in front of Korda, Kang and Henderson and a hole behind Shin, stroked a 35-foot birdie putt from the fringe that caught the low lip and curled in to get her fifth LPGA victory and first since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open, 1,365 days ago. Kang’s 20-footer to tie Wie missed then Korda left an 8-footer a tad low, giving Wie a win for which she had waited a long time.
Shin, who matched Wie’s closing 65, bogeyed the last hole to open the door for her challengers.
“It was crazy,” Wie said as she accepted the winner’s trophy. “I don’t know what’s going on right now. I’m so proud of me, my caddie and my entire team. HSBC always has a world-class event. This means a lot to me.”
The victory was huge not just for Wie but for the LPGA. There is no other name in golf this side of Tiger Woods and none in women’s golf since Nancy Lopez that moves the needle as much as Michelle. Sixteen years after she played her first LPGA event and nine years after she joined the tour, the 28-year-old Wie may be poised to have the kind of season everyone has long expected.
Truly, the biggest key for Wie to being able to build on this early success is to stay healthy. Injury and illness has tripped her up in the past and even in Singapore she played with parts of her body shrouded in medical tape.
Starting Sunday five strokes behind Nelly Korda, trailing Kang by four and two back of Henderson and Minjee Lee, Wie had a lot of ground to make up. But she went out in 33 and closed with a 32 in a flawless bogey-free performance.
After a hiccup of a 73 on Friday in which she used 33 putts, Wie closed with a 66 and a 65, needing only 51 putts on the weekend. Truly, in addition to her health, the vitality of her putter has always been an issue for Michelle. This win could signal good things to come for her.
This was a tournament not lost by anyone but rather won by Wie. Of all the near misses, Shin likely went to sleep with the greatest regrets as she bogeyed the final hole of her 65 to finish one back. Henderson closed with a 67, Kang with a 70 and Korda with a 71.
Korda, whose 25-year-old sister Jessica won her fifth LPGA event last week at the Honda LPGA Thailand, was looking for her first tour triumph, which would have added some interesting fodder to LPGA folk lore.
The history of sisters in the LPGA is unusual, going back to the founding of the tour in 1950 when Alice Bauer and Marlene Bauer Hagge were among the 13 women who started the organization. Since that time, eight sisters combinations have played on tour and only one – Annika, with 72 wins, and Charlotta Sorenstam, with one – both reached the winner’s circle.
In what would have been a coincidental twist, Nelly would have won a week after Jessica won the Honda LPGA Thailand, matching what the Sorenstams accomplished in 2000 when Annika won in Tucson and Charlotta backed her up in Phoenix the next week.
Marlene Hagge won 26 times while Alice never broke through. Donna Caponi won 24 LPGA events and Janet none; Danielle Ammaccapane won seven times and Dina none; Ariya Jutanugarn has five wins while Moriya has yet to win; neither Aree nor Naree Song have won and neither have Numa or Russy Gulyanamitta.
But you certainly left the HSBC feeling it is only a matter of time until Nelly joins Jessica in the winner’s circle. The lightning delays that interrupted the HSBC were only part of the electricity that sparked the tour’s returns to the United States at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Phoenix. This victory by Michelle Wie only adds to the already hot start to the LPGA season.