The wind blew, and blew more, and blew even more as the final round of the RICOH Women’s British Open unfolded. The greens, rolled but not mowed last night, were slower, which made the putts less susceptible to the wind, but also slower than they had been yesterday. Birdie opportunities became pars and certain pars turned into disappointing bogeys as the lead flipped back and forth between Morgan Pressel (USA), Na Yeon Choi (South Korea), Suzann Pettersen (Norway), Stacy Lewis (USA), and Hee Young Park (South Korea) over the course of the last 18 holes of the tournament.
Pressure mounted and mental fatigue escalated as the leaders played out the final 9 holes. Greens befuddled players because the were slower than they had been on Saturday. Puttes were too long, then short. Hee Young Park chose a lay-up shot inside the Hell Bunker to improve her lie, executed a spectacular shot out of the bunker, and saved par on the 15th hole. Stacy Lewis missed an eagle putt on 14, which would have bought her a share of the lead, and had to settle for a birdie on the 14th hole, one shot back with 4 holes remaining. Morgan Pressel double bogeyed #12 and dropped back to 3 shots off the lead. Back-to-back bogeys on 13 and 14 took away 2 of Na Yeon Choi’s 3 shot lead. Then Lewis grabbed a share of the lead with a birdie on 17 and followed up with an impossibly long birdie putt on the 18th hole, taking the outright lead with her last shot of the tournament! Playing behind Lewis, Pressel and Pettersen both bogeyed 17 and both dropped down the board, trailing Lewis and with 1 hole remaining, not able to overtake her. Choi also bogeyed 17 and trailed Lewis by 2 shots going into the 18th hole. In the end, the leaders had played 36 holes and fought the wind throughout the compressed 3rd and 4th rounds clearly played the final 9 physically depleted. Nobody could catch Stacy Lewis!
When all the cards were signed Hee Young Park and Na Yeon Choi shared 2nd place and Morgan Pressel and Suzann Pettersen shared the 4th slot on the board. All of them will get a good payday from the $2.75 million purse.
Lewis’s win breaks the 2-year American losing streak at major tournaments also represents a personal triumph for Lewis, who was displaced from the #1 spot in the Rolex Rankings 16 weeks ago by Inbee Park (South Korea). Lewis credited her win to 3 practice rounds, planning for multiple wind effects, and doing the mental preparation that’s needed to withstand the pressure of playing to win in a major tournament.
Inbee Park failed in her historic and heroic run at a 4th major tournament win in a single year, finishing the Open 6 shots over par and well down the leaderboard. Park’s putter just couldn’t adjust to the St Andrews greens that challenged the players daily with wide variations in speed. Reflecting on the stress she felt leading up to and playing the British Open, Park felt that she had learned some valuable lessons about stress management and going forward in her career would be much better equipped to manage the mental side of her game under fire.
Home-course favorite Catorina Matthew (Scotland) struggled through the final round, carding 6 shots over par and ending the tournament at even par. Matthew rolled her final putt on the 18th hole for a birdie to a cheering crowd, but the double early in her final round, followed by 5 bogeys, sent her plummeting down the board to a shared 10th place finish.
Now, on to the Solheim Cup!