Posted: July 13, 2015 3:10 am
There was a lot of excitement for the record-setting crowds at the U.S. Women’s Open to follow over the course of the week at Lancaster Country Club, but it was the big finish that everyone was waiting for — and the golfers delivered.
In the final moments, across the final holes of the championship, the names atop the leaderboard shuffled continuously until In Gee Chun pulled away with a 4-under 66 and a tournament total of 272.
Just one stroke behind was Amy Yang.
The Korean entered Sunday with a three-shot lead and it was assumed she would battle it out with her playing partner Stacy Lewis in a match play-like round for the right to hoist the Harton S. Semple trophy at the 70th Open. Instead she had to settle for her second runner-up finish and fourth top-5 score in the last six Opens.
Yang looked to be in control early on, but struggled on the infamously difficult back nine of LCC. An eagle on 16 pulled her within one of the charging Chun to the delight of the spectators.
“I saw the leaderboard actually on No. 15 and I knew I really had to hit a good drive to the green and I had to make that downhill two-putt,” said Yang. “I’ve been hitting it good, so I felt good about the tee ball. My putting was struggling a little bit yesterday and today, but I had to trust it.”
Her putting game worked in her favor there, but it wasn’t as successful on the 18th green.
After hitting into the rough, Yang hit a pitch shot aiming for the green and setting her up for a putt that would force a three hole playoff. She missed just left, eliciting groans from the crowd and sealing the win for Chun.
“I hit a good putt,” said Yang. “I aimed about a cup to the left side and all I could think was just never leave it short. It didn’t go like what I expected, but I learned some new things and it’s going to make me improve.”
It wasn’t the way Lewis wanted it to end either.
A runner-up to Michelle Wie at Pinehurst last year, Lewis opened Sunday with a birdie to pull within two and even held a share of the lead with just four holes left to play. She finished tied for third with Inbee Park with a combined 275.
“I knew I was tied for the lead, knew where I stood there,” Lewis said of heading to the 15th tee. “Just trying to hit a good drive and probably hit the worst drive of the week. That’s the one I wish I could have over again.”
No. 1 finishes third
Entering the championship as the top-ranked golfer in the world, Inbee Park drew swarms of fans as she traversed the course and as those fans watched, they noticed something was off with the reigning KPMG Women’s PGA champion.
Sitting at one-under through her first ten holes, and three-under for the tournament, Park struggled with her putting Sunday.
“That’s not like her,” a spectator remarked as Park missed a birdie putt on 11.
Park, who was celebrating her 27th birthday, fittingly ended her round with a birdie putt on 18 to card a 67 and finish tied for third.
“Earlier in the week my ball-striking wasn’t that great, but over the weekend, my putting was just really off,” she said. “I feel like I left seven or eight putts out there yesterday and today. There were so many putts I should have made but missed. It was a close one, but maybe not my time this time.”
A different kind of card
For 17-year-old Brooke Henderson, this year’s Open carried extra significance.
Qualifying for her third championship after a top-10 finish at last year’s event at Pinehurst, the Canadian jumped from 44th after the first two rounds into a six-way tie for fifth place after carding 68-66-277 on the final two days.
“I think Thursday and Friday you really need to get a good start and I didn’t really quite do that,” said Henderson. “I was sort of close to the cut line on Friday, which is never a good thing, but after that I knew I had to go low to climb up the leaderboard a little bit so I tried to do that.
“The conditions here on this course have changed a lot of the last couple of days and I think paying attention to those and knowing where to hit your shots was really important today.”
The finish is an accomplishment in and of itself for the former No. 1 amateur, but also helps as she continues her quest to get her LPGA Tour card. It’s a goal Henderson can achieve if she can accumulate enough money to put herself in the top 40 money earnings by season’s end and in time for her 18th birthday.