Posted: June 29, 2015 2:00 am
The LPGA Tour went into its pre-U.S. Open break with a flurry of drama and craziness in Arkansas Sunday.
Stacy Lewis was supposed to win the Walmart Northwest Arkansas Championship. She’s the local favorite, an Arkansas Razorback. She won it last year and hasn’t won since, but has contended so often without breaking through that it’s “become a thing.”
Lewis seemed to be on-script Sunday, playing the first 10 holes four under par to seemingly take control. Then she cooled, missed shortish birdie putts on 16 and 17, the rowdy, stadium-setting par-3.
Still, it seemed like Lewis’ day. But at the exact moment the crowd was having a Pig-sooey pep rally for Lewis on 17, Na Yeon Choi was standing over an 8-iron at the par-4 16th, one shot behind Lewis, with almost no one watching.
Choi hit in in the hole for a 2.
At 17, before a suddenly-staggered crowd, Choi grabbed the 8-iron again and stuffed it to within two feet for another birdie. Incredibly, Choi had a two-shot lead.
Eighteen is a par-5. Lewis drove well there, but laid up, than hit a horrid short iron and made a bogey.
Choi parred 18 to win, shooting 66-63-69-198, 15 under par and two better than runner-up Mika Miyazato. Lewis (68-65-68) tied for third.
In a bizarre interview with Golf Channel while Choi was on the final green, Lewis said she had, “just found out now,” that Choi had holed the 8-iron. Still, she said, she knew where she stood on 18, because, “somebody said she needed an eagle.”
The hole was left on 18, somewhat tucked behind a bunker. Lewis said she had 212 yards to clear the bunker with her second shot, didn’t think she could fly it, and thus laid up leaving herself with a full iron third shot.
But there was plenty of green right of the bunker. She could easily have played a shot onto or around the green, and then taken her chances with a long eagle putt or chip. Even in the bunker, her odds of making a three were obviously greater – not great, but greater – than with a full iron shot.
Was Lewis confused? Overwhelmed? Math-phobic?
Maybe we’ll find out during her pre-event press conference at the Open in ten days or so. Maybe we’ll find out even before that, since Lewis is one of several big-name stars (defending champion Michelle Wie, Karrie Webb, Christie Kerr, etc) who have apparently not yet played a practice round at Lancaster Country Club. Again, there’s no tournament anywhere else this week.
In other news…
Going into the Open, who’s hot and who’s not?
Plenty of the tour’s elite – many of them brand-name Americans – go into the break playing well. In addition to Lewis, Paula Creamer did 66 Sunday and was in a group tied for 6th at 11 under along with the evidently-very-much-for-real Minjee Lee. Christie Kerr shot 66 to get to 10 under, T9th.
They all shot one under and missed it by only a shot, so probably no big deal. Except that Wie hasn’t made a cut since April.
But the biggest news might be the tidy 63 fired Sunday by Lydia Ko. The 18 year-old world No. 2, who had been No. 1 until three weeks ago, had been a bit dormant of late.
Her round Sunday was scarily flawless: she hit every green and all but one fairway. Ko’s male-tour equivalent, Jordan Spieth, shot a dominant 65 in his last round before the men’s Open, at the Memorial Tournament, and then declared himself more than ready.
You know how that turned out. Just sayin’.