So Yeon Ryu fought her way into a tie at the end of 72 holes and then shutting the door on her rival, Ryu won the U.S. Women’s Open on Monday, defeating Hee Kyung Seo by three shots in a three-hole playoff.
Ryu became the fifth South Korean to win the Open and the fourth in the last seven years. Yes, they take their golf seriously there and Se Ri Pak—the queen of the sport in that country—was out on the course watching the 21-year-old Ryu make history.
Ryu played the three-hole playoff in 2-under par, all but sealing it when she hit three perfect shots to the green on the par-5 17th for a birdie while Seo drove into a bunker and had to scramble for bogey.
For good measure, Ryu hit her approach on 18 to four feet for another birdie.
But really, it was the birdie she made on that hole about an hour earlier that set her up for the win.
Trailing by one to an opponent who had closed out her round before darkness stopped play the previous night, Ryu hit a 6-iron uphill, over the lake on No. 18 to six feet. She slammed the putt home to pull into a tie and ended up with two birdies in an hour on a hole that yielded only 28 over five days.
Nobody will ever say Ryu backed into this victory, won on a 7,000-yard Broadmoor course that got hit by storms every day, turning it into a marathon for some players and a sporadic series of starts and stops for others.
Seo was the best on Sunday, when she played 36 holes over 14 hours and finished both rounds at 3-under 68. But there was one hiccup: A short putt that rimmed out on No. 17 when she was rushing to finish—a ball hit while the wind was whipping, leaving her uneasy as she stood over it. It left her at 3 under instead of 4 under and gave Ryu a glimmer of hope.
STRICKER'S TRIPLE PLAY
Steve Stricker’s third straight victory in the John Deere Classic certainly was the most challenging—and by far the most dramatic.
With nine holes to play, Stricker led by five strokes. With two holes left, he was two shots down.
Stricker sank a 25-foot putt from off the 18th green Sunday to beat rookie Kyle Stanley by one stroke.
Stricker’s clutch putt capped a roller coaster round on a steamy afternoon and gave him a 2-under par 69, good enough to make him the 10th golfer since World War II to win a tournament three straight times.
Despite a double-bogey on No. 5, when he needed two shots to get out of a greenside bunker, and bogeys on 15 and 16, Stricker finished at 22-under 262. Stanley, 23, whose best finish previously had been a tie for 12th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in late March, closed with a 66.
Matt McQuillan, who had missed the cut in his previous 10 tournaments, shot a 64 to tie Zach Johnson (65) for third at 17 under. Charles Howell III (64) and Chez Reavie (72) were another stroke back.
Stanley zoomed in front with birdies on five of the first six holes on the back nine, and kept the lead by salvaging par on 17 after sending his tee shot into a grove of trees. But he missed a 9-foot par putt on 18 to open the door for Stricker, who took advantage.
Stricker had fallen two behind with those back-to-back bogeys, which seemingly ended his hopes of a threepeat.
But he regrouped quickly. Stricker knocked in a 15-foot putt for birdie on 17 to cut Stanley’s lead to one stroke, then made what turned out to be a tournament-saving shot from a bunker on the left side of the fairway on 18.
Standing with his left foot in the bunker and his right foot on the lip, Stricker hit the ball solidly and left it on the fringe of the green behind the pin, drawing a huge roar from the crowd.
The next roar was even louder. Using his putter, Stricker sent the ball toward the cup and watched it curl in from the left side. The 44-year-old from Madison, Wis., a crowd favorite at this tournament, backed away as the ball neared the hole, then raised his arms and pumped his fist to celebrate the moment.
With the victory, Stricker joined a small but noteworthy group of golfers who have won a tournament three years running. The list reads like a Who’s Who’s of the game and includes Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Ben Hogan and Johnny Miller.
Stanley claimed a nice consolation prize, earning the spot in the British Open that goes to the highest finisher in this tournament who’s not already qualified. But if it hadn’t been for Stricker’s late heroics, Stanley would have had his first victory on the tour.
DONALD WINS SCOTTISH OPEN
Luke Donald enjoyed the perfect warmup for next week’s British Open with a flawless 9-under 63 to win the rain-shortened Scottish Open by four strokes, his first victory since becoming the world’s top-ranked player in May.
The 33-year-old Englishman started the third and final round a shot behind a trio of joint leaders but rolled in nine birdies in a majestic bogey-free display at Castle Stuart.
With only a light wind leaving the links course defenseless, Donald romped home with a winning total of 19 under, ahead of Sweden’s Fredrik Andersson Hed (62).
His eighth professional title—and third this year—didn’t just cement his top ranking, which he secured for the first time nearly two months ago by beating compatriot Lee Westwood in a playoff for the PGA Championship on his last appearance in Europe.
It also provided the ideal tonic ahead of the British Open at Royal St. George’s starting Thursday, where he’ll attempt to land his first major.
Colin Montgomerie had also been looking to qualify for his home major for the 22nd straight year but could only card a 70 to finish in a tie for 31st at 10 under.
The former Europe Ryder Cup captain briefly shared the lead in the final round after a birdie at the sixth, but dropped four shots at the start of the back nine to shatter his hopes.
No player has ever won the Scottish Open and gone on to win the British Open the following week, but Donald looks in good position to become the first.
SLUMAN TAKES CHAMPIONS TOUR EVENT
Jeff Sluman shot a 2-under 70 and overcame a pair of bogeys on the back nine Sunday, holding on to win the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach for the third time.
On a day when most of the leaders struggled just to break even, Sluman had five birdies and closed with three straight pars to finish at 10-under 206 and seal his first victory since winning here in 2009. He also took the title at Pebble Beach in 2008, making Sluman the only three-time winner of this event.
Jay Haas entered the final round with a two-stroke lead, but struggled all afternoon and had a 75 to finish in a three-way tie for second. David Eger (72) and Brad Bryant (73) joined Haas at 208, while local favorite Bobby Clampett (74) ended in a five-way tie for fifth.
Defending champion Ted Schulz shot 75 and was tied for 27th at 215.
IN OTHER NEWS
One drive into thick grass ended John Daly’s hopes of making the cut for the first time at the John Deere Classic.
Daly needed seven shots, each advancing his ball only a few feet, and a drop to get out of the rough right of the No. 4 fairway and ended up with a 13 on the par-4 hole. He had stepped to the tee at 2-under for the tournament, which he played for the seventh time.
It wasn’t Daly’s worst hole on tour. He had an 18 on No. 6 at the 1998 Bay Hill Invitational, when he hit into the water six times.
Daly, who finished his round at 10-over 81, said he hit a terrible shot into the worst spot on the TPC Deere Run course and deserved what he got.
Jason Faircloth is no stranger to big challenges. The 32-year-old Clinton, N.C. native will be taking on his next big challenge next month when he becomes the first American golfer to play in the Disabled British Open at East Sussex National Golf Resort and Spa.
Faircloth, who has cerebral palsy, began playing golf at 12 years old. Twenty years later, he will be teeing it up with golfers from all over the world, on a course designed for championship golf with the intent of winning.
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