The narrative all week here at the Wegmans LPGA Championship has been that Monroe Golf Club is a bombers' paradise, but in the end the final edition of the tournament in Rochester became a pitch-and-putt contest between defending champion Inbee Park, who made 2 clutch 10 footers in her last 2 holes to get to -11, and Brittany Lincicome, who 3-putted from about 25 feet on the 72nd hole to fall back to that same number and open the door to the former world #1.
They played the 18th again on the first playoff hole, and even though Lincicome outdrove Park by over 50 yards, both players went over the green with their approaches. Lincicome ended up not far from where she left her 25-footer 6 feet short, while Park had gunned for the pin and rolled to the back-right rough right behind it. Lincicome hit a good chip, but it released to about 9 feet, while Park cozied hers up within 3 feet. The previous night, Lincicome had admitted that the key place her nerves show up is on the greens, while Park has been talking down her putting this year but even before she switched putters last week was still among the top 3 in the world on the greens this year on the LPGA. Long story short: Lincicome missed. Park made. Park defended her title.
More to come!
[Update 1 (7:52 pm): I spent most of the day following Mina Harigae (16th-18th holes), Jennifer Song (6th-12th), Danielle Kang (10th-18th), and Tiffany Joh and Jane Park (12th-end, back and forth between their 2 groups). But I did get back to the 17th green in time to see Lydia Ko fail to get up-and-down from the neck on the 17th and watch Inbee pour in her birdie attempt. I was just to Inbee's right for her drive on 18 and the intensity on her face as she transitioned to her downswing was something to behold. I couldn't get close to the green, but I saw her par save disappear and heard the crowd's roar an instant later. I tried to get back to the 18th tee in time to see the 2 players tee off right from near the tee area, but was blocked by the ropes for the short way and had to go the long way around. Made it within 100 yards of the tee on the right side of the fairway, but by that time Lincicome was ready to drive.]
[Update 2 (7:58 pm): Brittany came into the interview room while I was typing update #1. I got to ask her about her thought process after her bogey on the par-5 12th and she gave a fantastic answer. I hope she continues to play well because she's one of the best interviews on the LPGA. Totally honest and very thoughtful.]
[Update 3 (8:08 pm): Last night here in the media room, Pettersen was totally confident and talking about trying to go low on Sunday, Lincicome was totally forthright about how she deals with her emotions and nerves, and Park seemed to be relishing the underdog role, feeding into the narrative that Monroe GC gives long hitters an advantage. But Sundays in a major are different. It's a lot harder to swing freely when the tournament is on the line and the further you hit it the further your misses go, too. In addition, the pressure on and around the greens ratchets up, particularly on Donald Ross greens. Cases in point: Pettersen's 41 and Piller's 42 on the front. It doesn't look from their scorecards that they missed a whole lot of fairways, but they made 7 bogeys and 2 doubles together in the 1st 8 holes. (Congrats to Gerina, btw, on her husband's win!) But let's face it, everybody struggled down the stretch. Azahara Munoz, a straight shooter, got it to -9 and made a fantastic par save on 14 after having to take an unplayable, but finished double-par-bogey. Lydia Ko, a precision player, got it to -10, but finished with 2 bogeys in a row. In the end, the player who played the best all week and particularly down the stretch was your winner.]
[Update 4 (8:14 pm): Shoutout to world #1 Stacy Lewis, who had the low round of the day, a 5-birdie 68, to vault into a tie for 6th with Pettersen, Shanshan Feng, Mirim Lee, and Julieta Granada. Oh, and add Anna Nordqvist to the list of players who fought their way up the leaderboard only to falter down the stretch. She was -8 with 4 to play and bogeyed 16 and 17.]