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Wie Finds Her Way

PINEHURST, NORTH CAROLINA | Women’s golf doesn’t need Michelle Wie but she sure does help. She isn’t Tiger. The ratings, interest and fortunes of the female professional game don’t hinge on Wie’s position on the leaderboard. But it is no coincidence that during a spring in which she logged her first win on U.S. soil and had seven top-10 finishes before arriving in Pinehurst with her parents and her little dog Lola, television ratings for the LPGA shot up between 16 and 25 percent ahead of the same period a year ago. The tour’s Facebook followers also have increased 163 percent, Twitter numbers are up 60 percent and the LPGA on Instagram (the preferred social site for millennials) is up 221 percent in the past 12 months.
Not all of that is attributable to Wie. There are plenty of compelling stories and personalities in the
women’s game, especially at this U.S. Women’s Open. Lucy Li was as charming as advertised. Stacy Lewis didn’t disappoint. Lexi Thompson hit tee shots that left fans gasping and shaking their heads. Pinehurst No. 2 and the USGA won a lot of new fans with back-to-back Opens. And Na Yeon Choi opened up about the pressures of being a star athlete in Korea. But Wie definitely moves the needle. This year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship, where Wie and Thompson were tied for the lead on the final day, was the most watched LPGA event in five years. The LPGA Lotte Championship, the tournament Wie won in Hawaii, had the highest ratings of any women’s non-major since 2009.
On Friday in Pinehurst, before she assumed sole possession of the lead, her walking gallery was not just the largest on the course, it rivaled the one Martin Kaymer had during his second round a week before. And he led by eight. As she walked off the course that afternoon, a portly North Carolinian outside the ropes said, “She’ll sure bring ’em out this weekend.” No one disagreed.


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