Na Yeon Choi prolongs South Korean dominance, wins U.S. Women’s Open
BY HERB GOULD firstname.lastname@example.org July 8, 2012 10:16PM
Na Yeon Choi won the U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run on Sunday by four strokes over Amy Yang. | Elsa~Getty Images
Updated: August 10, 2012 6:33AM
KOHLER, Wis. — In many ways, the U.S. Women’s Open that concluded Sunday at Blackwolf Run demonstrated the obstacles that women’s professional golf faces.
None of the high-profile players who might’ve given the sport a much-needed lift mustered her A-game on the weekend.
After shooting an enticing 66 on Friday, Michelle Wie shot 78-80 on Saturday and Sunday.
‘‘The long game didn’t feel comfortable out there,’’ Wie said, adding that some good putts didn’t drop. ‘‘One of the most frustrating rounds for me.’’
Similarly, 36-hole leader Suzann Pettersen (78-75) and 36-hole co-runner-up Cristie Kerr (77-75) withered. Paula Creamer, Sandra Gal and Lexi Thompson also were unable to seize the moment.
‘‘I played pretty awful today,’’ Pettersen said. ‘‘Very disappointing weekend.’’
Another lasting memory of this tournament will be some dreadfully slow play. No question, the extreme heat contributed to a forced-march Thursday. But on Saturday, when the final group played a 51/2-hour round, a sport that needs drama and flair served up too much mechanical ruminating.
That said, maybe a star was born. Na Yeon Choi, 24, who has a disposition as sweet as her game, survived some dangerously jangling nerves early on the back nine to win the Women’s Open.
Choi, who shot 73 to finish at 7-under 281, is the fourth South Korean to win the U.S. Women’s Open in five years and the fifth in eight years. Another South Korean, Amy Yang, closed to within two shots after 10 holes before finishing second, four shots back.
Afterward, Choi paid tribute to Se Ri Pak, who fired the first shot in South Korea’s rise to golf dominance by winning the 1998 Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run.
‘‘I call her a legend,’’ Choi said. ‘‘She inspired all Korean players. I want to be like that. I want to be like Se Ri Pak. She is a legend in Korea.’’
While Choi has earned her place in golf history, she’s more of a singles hitter in a sport that could use some home-run heroics. What she has in abundance, though, is heart.
‘‘[Choi is] having a dream weekend,’’ Kerr said. ‘‘She deserves to win.’’
Taking a six-shot lead into the final round after shooting a terrific 65 on Saturday, Choi seemed on cruise control until the 10th hole. That’s when she yanked her drive left into a hazard and wound up taking a triple-bogey 8.
She righted the ship with a birdie on No. 11, but the nerves resurfaced on No. 12, when she yanked a fairway wood left into the fescued slope above the green. After deciding against taking an unplayable lie because there was nowhere to drop, she chopped the ball onto the green and drained an 18-foot par putt.
Pluck. Heart. Toughness. Choi showed it all right there.
‘‘I tried to forget [the 8],’’ Choi said. ‘‘I had a good bounce-back on 11 and a good saving par on 12. I got some momentum from 11 and 12. After that, I got really good vibes.’’
Momentum? Good vibes? The par on No. 12 was the stuff of major champions.