Sports Outside the Beltway

Na Yeon Choi wins the U.S. Women’s Open

On the same course Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak won the U.S. Open on in 1998, Na Yeon Choi notched her first major championship triumph. She shot a score of 281 for 72 holes to finish four shots ahead of fellow South Korean Amy Yang.

Choi won the tournament on Saturday when she shot a 65 to take a six-shot lead over into Sunday’s final round. The final round wasn’t without some drama. After playing the first nine holes in par, Choi hooked her tee shot into a hazard on the 10th hole. She finished the hole with a triple bogey and her lead was cut in half from six to three shots. All other golfers other than Choi and Yang weren’t a factor in the final round.

On the 11th hole, Choi bounced back with a birdie. After a good drive on 12, Choi hooked her approach into the deep rough and had such a terrible lie, she was contemplating taking a drop. She didn’t and instead hacked her 3rd shot onto the 20 to 30 feet from the hole which was fantastic considering the circumstances. Choi then made the long putt for par. At the next hole a par 3 with water bordering the green on the right, Choi’s tee shot twice hit inside the hazard line(barely missing the water) before coming to settle just off the back of the green. Choi saved her par again.

After 13, Choi coasted in. She made birdies on 15 and 16 but bogied 18 to finish with a final round 73. With the win, Choi became the 4th South Korean golfer to win the U.S. Women’s Open since 2008. Choi becomes yet again another South Korean golfer with one major championship win. Se Ri Pak is the only Korean to win more than one major. I’ll say this however, either Choi or Jiyai Shin should get a second win before their careers are over.

Choi’s victory comes as no surprise. She was ranked #5 in the world coming into the tournament and was the LPGA Tour’s leading money winner in 2010. She had five previous wins on the LPGA Tour plus six professional wins in South Korea. Either she or Ai Miyazato was the best female golfer in the world without a major championship win. Miyazato now holds the title undeniably.

Se Ri Pak finished a very respectable 9th considering she is likely to have shoulder surgery soon. It was Pak’s success in 1998 that caused Choi and other Koreans to come to the LPGA Tour. Since 2001 South Koreans have won more majors(11) than any other nationality. The United States is 2nd with 10.

#1 player in the world Yani Tseng is in a bit of a slump right now. She won three tournaments early this year but has been struggling of late. To me at least, Tseng in the summer of 2012 is resembling Lorena Ochoa in the summer of 2008. Only months earlier both golfers were invincible and suddenly they were off their games.

The 4th major of the Women’s golf season, The Women’s British Open, won’t be held until September due to the Olympic games in London a few weeks from now. Choi will certainly be one of the favorites.

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