PINEHURST As Michelle Wie hunted for her ball near a bunker on the 16th hole, Amy Yang was squatting on the green, swinging her putter back and forth, staring at the ground. If she could feel the tension in the moment, as the U.S. Women’s Open championship seemingly hung in the balance, Yang certainly didn’t show it.
Yang parred 16, just like she did 17, and birdied 18 to finish Sunday a disappointing 4-over-par, leaving her 2-over-par for the championship, good for fourth place. Meanwhile, her playing partner, Wie, double-bogeyed No. 16, sank a dramatic birdie putt on 17, complete with three fist pumps, and parred No. 18 to wrap up her first major championship. Yang, 24, was an up-close witness to history.
Personally, she finished in the top five of a major for the seventh time. But she’s still hunting her first major win.
As the pair walked down No. 16, a little girl in a hot pink pink dress chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!” in her high-pitched voice. Yang, born in South Korea, dealt with that all day – an intensely pro-Wie crowd. She knew after her round Saturday that would be the case. It’s something she’s dealt with before, plenty of times.
Yang and Wie played three rounds together at Pinehurst No. 2. The familiarity of playing with Yang had Wie feeling comfortable entering the day.
“Amy and I are pretty good friends. We played a lot in tournament rounds,” Wie said Saturday. “She took some time off this year, she took four weeks off, so I think she's just feeling really fresh, really motivated. But, yeah, it’s going to be a fun day tomorrow. I really like playing with her.”
Putting, normally a strength for Yang, failed her Sunday. One of the top 10 putters in the LPGA this year, Yang took an early three-putt on the second hole, causing her to card a double-bogey. She gave up three shots in the first two holes and needed 33 putts to get through her round.
“I just had no feeling of the distance,” Yang said. “I just had a tough time all day.”
Yang started golfing at age 10, and her family moved from South Korea to Australia when she was 15 to give her better golf opportunities. Fourteen months later, she won the Australian Masters as an amateur, one of three Ladies European Tour Victories to her credit.
After she won the Ladies German Open in 2008 – shortly after she and her family moved to Orlando – Yang donated her $61,260 prize check to the victims of an earthquake in China’s Sichuan province. Also in that field: Wie, who finished sixth, the first time in two years that she finished a tournament under par.
Six years later, the two were walking down the 18th fairway together, making small talk as the gallery applauded. Only this time, it was Wie who would win, making history as Yang stood by.
Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley
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