At the start of the final round at the RICOH Women’s British Open on Sunday morning there were fifteen players within five strokes of Inbee Park’s overnight lead, six of them in red numbers. When it was over Sunday afternoon, there were eight players within five strokes of Mighty Mo Martin, and Martin, who finished the Open at one stroke under par to claim her first LPGA Tour victory, and a Major at that, was the only player still in red numbers!
Surviving the Wind
Sunday at Royal Birkdale Golf Club was one for the history books and for those who survived it, the round is seared into their memories, no matter where they finished on the board.
Brittany Lincicome, who finished at +10 and in T38th, came off the 18th green and tweeted:
Thank God that is over. This game is very frustrating.
And in her post-round interview Jessica Korda reported that the extreme wind was making the balls “ovulate.” Twitter went wild with a new hashtag: #hormonalgolfballs!
Whether the balls were ovulating or oscillating, the wind drove the scores up, and up, and up. How difficult was it, playing golf on Sunday at Royal Birkdale? World ranked number 2 Lydia Ko carded 80 on Sunday and Stacy Lewis, the top-ranked golfer in the world had to put a 78 on her card.
Mo Martin’s Winning Round
But Mighty Mo, who came into the Open ranked 99th in the world, apparently had her breakdown in the third round, where she started at -5 and at the top of the board, ran into a devastating string of problems on the back nine, and walked off the 18th green at -1, barely edging ahead of Inbee Park and Shanshan Feng, who’d jockeyed for the lead through much of the round.
Smiling all the way, in stark contrast to the grim faces on the players around her, Martin played a sturdy, steady, careful game on Sunday, keeping herself at even par until the par-5 72nd hole, when her second shot hit the flagstick and came to rest about three feet from the cup. She’d barely missed being able to put an albatross on her card.
Martin later told the BBC interviewer: “The 2nd shot is one I’m going to remember. I actually heard it hit the flag. I said `Oh my God.‘”
At the moment of impact, however, Mighty Mo did a little jig right there in front of the green — Beth Ann Nichols of Golf Week described it as “a little dance thingie” — and then polished off the hole, the round, and the tournament with an unhesitating putt for an eagle that put her one stroke ahead of Park and Feng, who were playing in two groups behind her.
There was a torturous wait while Feng and Park and Suzann Pettersen, who had an outside chance to tie it up if she could get up and down from a greenside bunker on 18, finished their rounds. Martin passed the time in the practice area, rolled a few putts, hit a few shots with her driver, tried to stay loose and be ready for a playoff. But it didn’t come.
The galleries on 18th remained quiet while one pair after another finished, then gave a rousing welcome to the new champ! There was a deep silence in the ESPN commentator booth. Dottie Pepper and Judy Rankin wept, perhaps with the joy of the moment or perhaps reliving their private memories of first wins and Major championship victories.
From the fans and from the players alike, consensus emerged: Mo Martin is a woman of enormous character and is truly a champion.
And The Others
World ranked number 3 Inbee Park will take another crack at a Career Grand Slam next year. The Women’s British Open remains the only Major she hasn’t won.
Stacy Lewis will not be able to put another top-10 finish on her resume. She finished T12th this time.
World ranked number 4 Suzann Pettersen and number 9 Shanshan Feng finished runner-up to Martin. That’s the best finish for both of them this year, and they’ll take home nice $235K checks as their consolation prizes. They both played splendid games this week and it’s especially good to see Pettersen healthy and back in contention. Like Charley Hull, she forces the best from the field by her own aggressive play.
The LPGA Tour travels now to Sylvania, Ohio and the Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning & O-I. Sylvania loves the Tour and probably already has its welcoming The Girls Are Back In Town banners flying. Beatriz Recari’s the defending champion and all the regulars are in the field, including the Tour’s newest champion, Mighty Mo Martin.
The LET travels to Worthsee, Germany and the Ladies’ German Open Presented by Marriott and all the regulars are in the field, including Sandra Gal, Cheyenne Woods, and Charley Hull, who tweeted a typical teenaged closeout for the 2014 RICOH Women’s British Open:
Putted like utter crap today. Now off to Germany. I suppose T12 in a major isn’t bad but I will get my name on the trophy one day. . .
I’ll preview both events early next week here at ProGolfNow. Check back or follow me on Twitter @bethbethel and I’ll let you know as soon as the previews are published.