LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England - Michelle Wie heads back to school with some valuable lessons on how to play links golf.
The 16-year-old had not finished worse than fifth all year on the LPGA Tour and appeared to be closing in on her first professional victory until Royal Lytham & St. Annes made her look like a kid at the Women's British Open. She failed to break par all four days and wound up in a tie for 26th.
Perhaps the best lesson came from Sherri Steinhauer, a 43-year-old American who captured the Open for the third time.
Steinhauer kept risks to a minimum, avoiding the pot bunkers of Lytham and keeping her ball in the fairway and on the green until she was assured of victory, closing with 72 for a three-shot victory.
Wie was coming off a tie for second at the Evian Masters. She had narrowly missed playoffs at the other three majors. But she couldn't handle the links golf at Lytham, taking six shots to get out of three bunkers during the week.
"I think, strangely enough, that I learned more here this week than I did all summer," Wie said. "I played great all summer and played good in this tournament. Just a couple of shots did not go the way I wanted them to. But today, yesterday and the day before, I learned so much."
What did she learn?
"How to play the game, really," Wie replied. "Playing a links golf course really forces you to play golf. I learned to try and be patient out there. When things go bad, you have to play through it and make some putts when you have to."
The first time Steinhauer won the British Open title was here at Lytham in 1998, when Wie was 8.
She recovered from an opening round 81 to work out how to play the links course and win the title at 4-over par. This time, she made up for an opening 73 and took control of the tournament with 66 in the third round.
At 7-under 281, Steinhauer finished three ahead of Cristie Kerr and 2000 British Open champion Sophie Gustafson
"It just felt like it was my turn to win out there," she said. "I tried to just hit fairways and greens and stay out of trouble. This kind of golf suits my game."
Steinhauer now defends the title at St. Andrews, which plays host to the Women's British Open for the first time next year.
Wie, meanwhile, starts her senior year at Punahou School in the coming weeks.
She still has another PGA Tour event on her schedule, the 84 Lumber Classic in Pennsylvania in early September, along with another trip to Japan for the Casio World Open. Her final start this year on the LPGA Tour will be at the Samsung World Championship in October.
In seven starts on the LPGA Tour, she has earned more than $718,000, enough to be 14th on the money list. But as last week showed, she still has a lot to learn.