The HSBC Women’s Champions was everything that a tournament should be! A fantastic golf course filled with dangers and challenges set the backdrop. An international field of world-class players competed for the prize. Youngsters hunting their first Tour win and nibbling at the heels of seasoned players added a bit of backdrop drama. A back nine stumble rearranged the top of the leaderboard introduced a dash of uncertainty. A sudden-death playoff ended with a an eagle putt made from a distance longer than anyone could imagine and American Paula Creamer, winless since the 2010 US Women’s Open, who’d kept herself among the top-five on the board and in contention for 73 holes of golf, seized the win!
In A Nutshell
Aussie Karrie Webb, a popular and well-tested Hall of Famer with 52 career wins on her resume set the pace and held the lead at the Women’s Champions for 54 holes. Webb played smooth, unruffled golf, holding onto her lead by a bare stroke or two, but followed closely by former Women’s Champions winner Angela Stanford throughout the tournament.
A pair of Team Europe Solheimers, Swede Caroline Hedwall and Spaniard Azahara Muñoz, youngsters still rising through the ranks and hunting their first Tour win, hovered around the top slot on the board. Then Hedwall stumbled and dropped out of contention.
For a while it looked as though this tournament would boil down to a back-nine battle between Webb and Stanford. Through it all Paula Creamer, one of the Tour’s most effervescent players worked her way quietly and consistently up the board. Coming home, a run of bad luck or a mistaken club choice, shots gone wrong, derailing Webb on the back nine, throwing Muñoz and Creamer into a -10 tie for the top of the board.
Creamer drained a 75-foot eagle putt on the second sudden-death playoff hole to defeat Muñoz and bring to an end a 79-event winless streak. That putt curled across the 18th green and then rolled slowly down the slope and directly into the hole. Creamer ran across the green, fell to her knees and put her head on the ground, laughing and pounding the grass.
It’s one of those putts where if you just get it in the right spot, it’s going to fall down . . . But I could stand there all day long and putt that and I don’t think get it within six, seven feet.
Friends and competitors had stayed with her, following the playoff, and Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lang, Christie Kerr and Irene Coe, along with her caddie Colin Cann, rushed onto the green to congratulate Creamer and bring the 2014 HSBC Women’s Champions to a perfect close.
Beyond the Spotlight
Nothing much will change in the battle between South Korean Inbee Park and Norwegian Suzann Pettersen for the top of the Rolex Rankings. The pair finished the Women’s Champions in a tie for fourth place. Park will remain No. 1 and Pettersen No. 2. Creamer will move from 11th into the 8th spot in the rankings, adding another American to the top ten in the world rankings.
Defending champ Stacy Lewis, America’s teenager Lexi Thompson, much-watched rookie Lydia Ko, and China’s golf star Shanshan Feng all finished well below the top-10. They’ll all have another shot at claiming a trophy and snagging a good paycheck at either the LET World Ladies Championship, March 6-9 in Haikou, China or the LPGA Founder’s Cup, March 20-23 in Pheonix, Arizona.
Singapore amateur Amanda Tan finished her first pro event at twenty-seven shots over par. But she finished it. She didn’t give up, she didn’t have a toothache, she didn’t withdraw and walk away from it. She played it to the end, and I congratulate her!