Planet Golf — 26 July 2014 by GW staff and news services
Golf Bag: Spain wins International

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Carlota Ciganda breezed to an early victory to set the tone and Spain won all four of its singles matches Sunday to capture the inaugural International Crown.

Sweden finished second in the tournament that began Thursday with 32 players from eight countries. The top-seeded United States was among three teams eliminated Saturday, leaving five countries and 20 players to compete for the trophy.

Fifth-seeded Spain began the final round tied for second behind Japan, but Ciganda immediately gave the Spaniards a boost by beating Na Yeon Choi of South Korea 8 and 6. Beatriz Recari followed with a 3-and-2 victory over Mikaela Parmlid of Sweden, and Belen Mozo clinched the tournament title with a 3-and-2 win over Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand.

That set off an impromptu celebration on the 16th hole that began with a jubilant Recari jumping into the arms of Ciganda.

Azahara Munoz completed the sweep by beating Ai Miyazato of Japan 2 and 1.

Points accumulated through Saturday were added to those amassed Sunday. Using the scoring system of two points for a win and one for a tie, the final order was: Spain (15 points), Sweden (11), South Korea (10), Japan (10), Thailand (9), United States (6), Taiwan (4) and Australia (3).

“Even though we were maybe the underdogs because of the seedings, I knew deep inside that what you need in a team championship is what we have,” Mozo said. “We have always played together, we have always won together. Coming in, we knew we had that advantage over the other teams.”

Japan entered the final round with a one-point lead but lost three of four matches, its lone win coming when Mika Miyazato beat Onnarin Sattayabanphot of Thailand 3 and 1.

Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg topped Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand 6 and 5, taking the lead for good at No. 1 and winning at 10, 11 and 12 to pull away. But the Swedes’ bid to win the tournament fizzled when Caroline Hedwall lost to South Korea’s Inbee Park, 4 and 2.

Although Sweden didn’t come home with the trophy, at least one team member left with a fond memory.

“I’ve gotten to show myself on the biggest stage that I’ve been on so far and it feels like I’ve really take advantage of that,” said Lindberg, 28, who was playing in her first match-play event. “It’s been so much fun, just over expectations for everyone.”

Park, meanwhile, rode the momentum generated by Saturday’s wild-card playoff win over the U.S. to breeze past Hedwall. That left South Korea with at least an outside shot of capturing the event.

“It was important to win the first match. It kind of gives everyone hope and some energy to play well,” Park said.

That’s how it worked for Spain. Alas, South Korea could not sustain the momentum.

Not long after Park won, Choi walked off the course after 12 holes in her mismatch against Ciganda, and South Korea’s chances grew even dimmer when I.K. Kim lost to Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand 1 up.

So Yeon Ryu’s 1-up win over Sakura Yokomine of Japan left South Korea at 2-2 for the afternoon.

Jo wins final Women’s Public Links title

DUPONT, Wa. – Fumie (Alice) Jo won the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, never trailing in her 3-and-2 victory over Eun Jeong Seong at The Home Course and forever etching her name in United States Golf Association history.

Jo, 15, is the first USGA champion from the mainland of the People’s Republic of China. She is the second-youngest champion in WAPL history, following 13-year-old Michelle Wie in 2003. She is also the final winner in the 38-year history of the Women’s Amateur Public Links, as the championship has been officially retired following today’s completion of play.

“In China, I think everyone will be talking about (my victory),” said Jo, a ninth-grader in Shanghai who was playing in her first USGA championship. “I’m just really happy.”

Seong, 14, of the Republic of Korea, joins Jo in the WAPL record books. She set 18- and 36-hole scoring records during Monday and Tuesday’s stroke-play rounds on her way to earning medalist honors.

“My stroke-play (performance) was exceptional and I played really well,” said Seong. “I could not play that well all the time. There were some ups and downs.”

The Jo-Seong match was also the first and only all-international final in championship history.

Jo was twice able to take a 3-up lead during the morning round. The first came at No. 11, when she stuffed her wedge approach to 3 feet and made birdie. Her bogey at the par-4 12th after coming up short of the green dropped her lead to two. However, Seong was forced to concede the par-3 14th after her drive found the water behind the green and Jo stuck her tee shot to 6 feet.

Jo’s lead again fell to 2 up after her drive at the par-4 18th found a fairway bunker. She made the green in three, but her 40-foot par attempt came up just short. Seong’s 30-foot birdie putt just skimmed the right side of the hole, and her par was conceded.

Following the midday break, it looked like the pressure was getting to Jo. After Seong stuck her tee shot at the 24th hole within inches, Jo three-putted for bogey. Then at No. 25, a par 3, she left her tee shot well short of the green and then hit her birdie putt too hard, sending the ball off the back of the green. Her lead was back to a tenuous 1-up margin.

“I was really nervous … because I knew she was going to play very aggressively,” said Jo. “She was just going to go for the flag.”

As she had throughout the week, Jo turned to her mother and caddie, Joy, for calming advice.

“She kept telling me to relax, not feel too nervous,” said Jo. “She was a big help.”

Mom’s comforting words had an immediate effect. Jo executed a masterful chip from the rough at No. 28, landing 4 feet from the hole. She made the birdie putt to go 2 up.

She regained her 3-up lead at the par-3 30th hole, when Seong’s par putt clipped the right edge of the hole and rolled out.

Jo ultimately took the victory on the 16th green, the 34th hole of the final match. Seong’s second shot flew over the back of the green, while Jo’s ball sat in the front fringe. Seong’s chip flew high and rolled 30 feet below the hole.

Jo lagged her putt to 6 feet, and when Seong’s par attempt slid over the right edge of the hole, she conceded the hole and the match.

Despite taking the loss after dominating stroke play, Seong was able to take some lessons from the week.

“I learned from watching other players play, especially putting and short game,” said Seong. “That will help a lot for next week (at the U.S. Girls’ Junior).”

In victory, Jo receives a gold medal and custody of the Robert F. Dwyer Trophy for one year. She also receives exemptions into the next two U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships and the next two U.S. Girls’ Junior Championships. As the 2014 U.S. Girls’ Junior begins in two days, Jo has declined that exemption due to the quick turnaround. However, she is expected to be in the field at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, to be held August 4-10 at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y.

Seong receives also an exemption into the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the 2014 U.S. Girls’ Junior. She had already qualified for both championships.

This was the final playing of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. Beginning in 2015, the USGA will conduct the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, with the first being held May 9-13 at Bandon Dunes in Oregon.

The United States Golf Association annually conducts 13 national championships, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

Final round of ’15 U.S. Open a sellout

FAR HILLS, N.J.  – All daily tickets for the final round (Sunday, June 21) and all weekly ticket packages for the 2015 U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wa., are sold out.

Limited daily tickets for the competition days on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (June 18-20) are still available, but are expected to sell out quickly due to high demand, according to the United States Golf Association (USGA).

“The support and enthusiasm that we have received in the local area has been simply amazing,” said Reg Jones, Senior Director of the U.S. Open. “It is very clear based on the response with our volunteer recruitment, ticket sales, and hospitality sales that golf fans in the Pacific Northwest understand the historic nature of hosting their first U.S. Open championship.”

Visit usga.org/tickets for more information or to purchase tickets.

Tickets for all practice-round days (Monday, June 15 through Wednesday, June 17) are also available. Prices of all remaining tickets range from $50 each for Gallery tickets to $385 each for a Saturday 1895 Club ticket.

Each buyer is permitted to purchase as many as four tickets for each day. All tickets include complimentary parking and shuttle transportation to and from the championship entrance.

Junior tickets will be available on site and must be purchased at Will Call or any admission gate during the championship. Juniors ages 12 and younger will be admitted free of charge any day when accompanied by a ticketed adult. Tickets for juniors ages 13 to 17 will be available for purchase at a reduced rate. There is a maximum of two junior tickets per ticketed adult. Junior tickets permit Trophy Club access only when accompanied by an adult Trophy Club ticket holder. Junior tickets do not permit access to the 1895 Club, but 1895 Club tickets will be sold at a reduced rate for juniors.

The U.S. Open has sold out for 28 consecutive years, and the 2015 U.S. Open promises to be no exception as America’s national championship expands to new territory.

Els’ first shot starts bad day

HOYLAKE, England — Two-time Open champion Ernie Els limped through Royal Liverpool in a daze Thursday afternoon, shooting a 79 after hitting a spectator in the jaw with his very first shot of the tournament.

Els, 44, hooked his opening tee shot into the crowd, hitting a 60-something unidentified spectator who required medical treatment and was taken to a local hospital.

“I was thinking about him,” Els said. “There’s blood all over, and I was quite rattled. It wasn’t nice.

“I was kind of finished, and then started missing short putts. It was a nightmare. So I’d like to put it behind me. I just hope the gentleman feels better, because he looked really bad when I left him there.”

R&A officials said the man was admitted to the hospital with what was described as minor injuries. He was expected to be released, although there was no confirmation.

Regardless, Els never recovered. He made a triple-bogey 7 on the hole that included a missed backhanded putt. He made just one birdie, and his 79 was his second-worst score in 87 Open rounds dating to 1999.

Els said he set up on the first hole to hit his tee shot toward the left. He wasn’t trying to hit it in the gallery, but he did consider asking the marshals to move the crowd over, knowing that if the shot got away from him it could find people.

After hitting his drive, as the trajectory showed a hooking tee shot, Els signaled to the left to alert those ahead that his ball was heading into the crowd.

“I actually thought it was almost going left of the people, but I guess obviously not,” he said. “It was right in the face. Anyway, you think the worst. It was like a bullet coming at him. So he must have been in total shock. He didn’t look very good. So I did speak to him, and he wasn’t feeling too good getting hit.”

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