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Golf Tidbits: Wie has matured before our eyes

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Updated: 6/23 3:32 pm

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Having made a double-bogey on the 16th hole in the final round of the U.S. Women's Open, Michelle Wie was at a crossroads. She could step up or crumble.

The Wie we've known for much of her career probably would have collapsed over the final two holes, and at best dropped into a playoff with eventual runner- up Stacy Lewis.

But this is the 24-year-old Michelle Wie, Stanford grad, three-time Solheim Cup performer and owner of three LPGA Tour titles.

Wie bucked up and poured in a birdie putt on the very next green to give herself some breathing room. A simple par at the last gave Wie her first major championship victory, and fourth LPGA victory.

"I kind of smiled after I made my double-bogey putt. I just like to make it hard on myself," Wie joked.

The fact that she can joke like that is what has helped Wie turn the corner. She is far from the precocious teen we saw playing all over the world on all different tours trying to prove herself worthy of competing against the men and the women.

Wie has focused solely on playing the LPGA Tour, and that in turn, has helped her focus on her game.

Among the information released by the LPGA after Wie's win, one note caught my eye as both funny and stunning.

The tour noted that Wie snapped a 37-event winless streak in major championships. No kidding! Obviously, this being her first major championship win, she snapped a winless streak in majors.

And, holy cow! Wie has played 37 majors. Are you kidding me? She's still only 24-years-old. That means Wie has played nine full years of majors.

That isn't exactly how it played out, but Wie has played at least one major every year since 2003. Stacy Lewis, who is five years older than Wie, has only played 26 majors. That's how long Wie has been around.

To put Wie's win in a little perspective. Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb didn't win their first majors until they were 24. Lorena Ochoa was 25 when she won her first.

So Wie, who has been around for a dozen years, is the same age as Sorenstam and Webb were when they won their first majors.

Turning this forward for a moment, if Wie plays every Women's Open until she is 49, she would break Juli Inkster's record of 35 Women's Opens played. Inkster set that record this past weekend at the age of 53.

People talk about Wie being the Tiger Woods of the LPGA Tour. Most of those that say it have no idea of what they are actually saying. Wie and Woods are similar in one aspect - they both move the needle. Ratings spike when they are in contention.

The pair is also similar in another aspect. You are either for them or against them. On the PGA Tour, most fans are either in the Tiger camp or the Phil Mickelson camp. There is no such split on the LPGA Tour, but there are still those that either like or dislike Wie.

Whether you are for her or against her, you better get used to seeing a lot more of Wie. She has averaged 21 events per year over the last five years. Her number of events played has risen since she graduated from Stanford, and has grown with the addition of more tournaments.

It has helped that tour commissioner Michael Whan has expanded the tour from just 23 events in 2011 to 33 events this year. And outside of Wie's camp, Whan might be the most excited person associated with the LPGA Tour about Wie's win.

He now has Wie to sell as a major champion. She has been a transcendent figure her entire career, but now that she has the added title of major champion, sponsors will be more willing to involve themselves with Wie and the tour.

Look at how Lewis has sold herself. Most, if not all of her main sponsors, now have their names associated with tournaments as well. I'm not saying you're going to see the NIKE LPGA Classic, but I wouldn't put it past Whan to make that happen.

Wie is as marketable as ever now, and that may turn some people off, but they better get used to it.

Not only is Wie coming into her own on the course, but off the course as well. She will soon be the face of many new advertising campaigns. The one she'll enjoy most is being the face of the USGA commercials in which she referred to as U.S. Women's Open champion.

That is one title no one can ever take away from Wie. And she earned it.

INKSTER PLAYS LAST WOMEN'S OPEN

In recent weeks, Juli Inkster has added Golf Channel on-course reporter to her resume. That resume is loaded with records and achievements. Many of them revolve around the U.S. Women's Open.

Inkster posted her record 35th appearance at the U.S. Women's Open over the weekend. She fired a 4-under 66 in the third round to vault into contention.

Though she faded in the final round, that was Inkster's 13th round in the 60s at the Women's Open, which ties for second most.

She is one of seven women to win the U.S. Women's Open twice, and she is also one of seven women that have won the Women's Amateur and the Women's Open.

Inkster and Annika Sorenstam share the record for lowest 72-hole score (272) in Women's Open history, and Inkster was the most strokes under-par (16) at the 1999 Women's Open. That year, she set the championship's 54-hole scoring record of 201.

The World Golf Hall of Fame member also has the lowest first-round score (65) by an eventual winner. Those are just some of Inkster's records at the five major championships.

She was able to accomplish a lot of that while raising two children as well.

Inkster won three separate majors two times. She won seven major titles in all. If this was her swan song, the game will lose one of its all-time greats.

MINI-TIDBITS

- Kevin Streelman birdied seven in a row to win the PGA Tour's Travelers Championship on Sunday. That set a new record. The old mark of six in a row to win a PGA title has been in place since 1956. Records are made to be broken, I guess.

- For all the concerns about playing the same course in back-to-back weeks, it sure seemed like Pinehurst No. 2 withstood the beating it took from hosting the Men's and Women's Open Championships. The greens were a little slower for the women, but the fairways were clearly more burnt out.

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