HOYLAKE, England — Jiyai Shin was the only player in the Ricoh Women’s British Open field who managed to finish under par at the difficult Royal Liverpool Golf Club and won by a record nine strokes.
Shin shot a 9-under-par 279. Runnerup was Paula Creamer at plus-one.
After high winds on Friday caused the event to lose an entire day’s worth of the play, the tournament geared up for a 36-hole finish on Sunday. Players teed off for the third round early on Sunday morning and remained in the same groups as they worked to finish all 72 holes before the sun set on the final day of play.
Shin began the day with a commanding five-shot lead over Rolex Rankings No. 9 Inbee Park, who entered this week having captured eight straight top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour. Park ended up being the closest to Shin after 72 holes, but it was LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Karrie Webb who put the pressure on Shin as the third round finished early in the afternoon Sunday. Webb shot a 4- under 68 in the third round to pull within three shots of the South Korean native and looked to be in hot pursuit of her eighth major title.
However when the last few groups teed off for the final round, more bad weather settled in at Hoylake and scores soared after the first couple holes. Webb went 4-over through three holes to begin her final round while Shin triple-bogeyed the first. Yet Shin still found a way to distance herself from her competitors. Back-to-back birdies on the sixth and seventh stretched Shin’s lead back to a sizeable amount and she maintained that commanding lead heading into the final stretch of holes.
With a 10-shot lead entering the final hole of play, Shin was able to truly enjoy a picturesque finish. The sun finally broke through the clouds for the first time all day as the 24-year-old walked up the 18 th fairway en route to completing her 10th LPGA Tour victory.
“I said yesterday, my goal was 1under par every single day. So my goal was 4under. I think it was enough score,” Shin said. “So I’m really surprised even from yesterday and then also today, I hit even par with 36 holes with this weather, so I’m really surprised and inspired by myself. Because really tough course here, so when I finished it today, I’m just like, wow, I can play good score any, any other course, I’m pretty sure of that.”
Shin’s nine-shot victory is the largest in Open history, dating back to when it became a major in 2001. The largest margin of victory at the event had previously been held by Karen Stupples, who won by five shots in 2004 at Sunningdale. Louise Suggs holds the all-time record for the largest winning margin in a major for her 14-stroke victory at the 1949 U.S. Women’s Open.
Asian domination: Shin’s victory meant that for the first time in the LPGA’s history, all four major titles in a season were won by Asian-born players.
Shin is the third South Korean to win a major in 2012, joining Sun Young Yoo who captured the Kraft Nabisco Championship and Na Yeon Choi who won the U.S. Women’s Open. Shanshan Feng became the first player from mainland China to win on the LPGA Tour back in June when she captured the Wegmans LPGA Championship.
“I think so many Asia players are playing at the moment on the LPGA Tour, so it makes a lot of chance to win,” Shin said. “Especially, I don’t know I don’t know how can I say, I didn’t play last two major tournaments, but I played in Nabisco and here. Well, I work so hard, I guess that’s why I get this trophy, but, I don’t know, I know all the other players doing their best and they work hard, too. So it makes it just happen.”
The sweep by Asian players of the majors this year comes 14 years after Se Ri Pak revolutionized golf in South Korea by capturing two straight LPGA majors to begin her career in 1998, the McDonald’s LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women’s Open. But Pak wasn’t the first Asian-born player to win a major championship. Chako Higuchi of Japan earned that distinction when she won the 1977 LPGA Championship.
While a sweep of the majors is certainly a milestone, success in majors is nothing new for Asian players. They’ve now won nine of the last 12 majors on the LPGA Tour.
By winning the Open, Shin became the first player in LPGA history to win this event after having won the previous week on the LPGA Tour. Shin actually managed to capture two victories in one week, having defeated Paula Creamer on the ninth playoff hole on Monday morning to take home the Kingsmill Championship title.
“I’m happy to finish today because I didn’t want to play until Monday,” Shin swaid. “But today I played 36 holes, but finally done today. And then it was a really, really tough and long day, because I played 36 holes with rain and wind, so really hard to keep focussed. But it was work today. So I feel a little tired now.”
The Kingsmill Championship marked the first event that Shin had caddie, Florian Rodriguez, on her bag. That tournament resulted with a victory and now in week two of their partnership, the duo is a perfect 2-for-2 in wins.
So does Rodriguez get some of the credit for Shin’s resurgence after it had been nearly two years since her last victory on the LPGA Tour?
“I’m happy with my new work with my new caddie because he make me feel relaxed,” said Shin, who has been learning new French phrases while on the golf course to keep her calm. “Actually he’s one year younger than me, but he like tried to be relaxed on the golf course and I really appreciate my caddie.
Creamer near miss
Creamer just missed a chance at capturing her first victory in over two years last week at the Kingsmill Championship and there was no doubt that the close-call was a tough one to swallow for the nine-time LPGA winner.
Creamer missed a short putt on the 18th hole to win in regulation and then three-putted for bogey to lose to Jiyai Shin on the ninth playoff hole. That final hole of the playoff was forced to take place on Monday morning due to darkness halting play on Sunday night in Virginia and it rearranged Creamer’s entire travel schedule to the Open.
But the 26-year-old didn’t let the disappointment of last week linger for long and she delivered another solid performance this week at Royal Liverpool Golf Club. Creamer battled through the elements on Sunday and delivered one of the best final rounds, shooting an even-par 72 to finish at 1-over and in second place for a second straight week.
“I feel very close,” Creamer said. “I hit the ball great. I cannot take away from my ballstriking. That was definitely not the issue. It was my putting for sure. And a little bit speed related in some aspects and you know, I’m going to take a couple weeks off and try and refresh. But I have to continue moving forward with everything that I’m doing because like I said, I feel really good about where I’m at. It’s just a couple things here and there.”
LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Karrie Webb is no stranger to capturing a victory at the Open. She has won the event a total of three times in her career, including one victory after it became a major on the LPGA Tour in 2001. And on Sunday, Webb found herself right in the hunt as she looked to add an eighth major title to her already lengthy career resume.
Webb shot a 4-under 68 in the third round on Sunday morning to pull within three shots of leader. The last time that Webb won the Women’s British Open was in 2002 when she came from three shots back in the final round to eventually capture a three-shot victory. But this time the comeback was not to be.
The 37-year-old LPGA veteran struggled to keep up her hot play in the final round, shooting a 10-over 82 to finish in a tie for fifth at 3-over-par.
Lydia Ko, the recent CN Canadian Women’s Open winner and the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion. Ko, 15, took home the honor of low amateur at the Open, finishing in a T17 at 9-over-par. Ko, who became the youngest winner in LPGA Tour history last month, was one of four amateurs to make the cut at this year’s event. Amateurs Bronte Law, Holly Clyburn, and Jing Yan all made the cut as well. Clyburn finished in a T26 at 11-over-par, Law was T31 at 12-over-par while Yan finished in a T47 at 16-over-par