American Stacy Lewis closed with a pair of birdies on The Old Course at St Andrews and earned her second major championship at the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
Playing in the sixth last group out, under sunny skies, the World No.2 fired a final round of 72 to set the target at 208, eight-under-par.
Choi had set off well and had a three shot lead but then fell away with three bogeys in her last six holes and was one shot behind as she played the 18th hole. The South Korean needed to eagle the last hole to force a play-off but after a nervous wait on the practice green, Lewis could finally celebrate a two stroke win when Choi bogeyed the 18th hole.
Lewis played the first 36 holes of the championship in five-under-par and the second 36, through windy, testing conditions, in three-under-par, which effectively won her the championship.
Lewis, who was undefeated in the 2008 Curtis Cup at St Andrews, when she posted a 5-0 record, said that it felt like destiny that she should claim the title.
“I felt so comfortable out there, I almost felt like it was meant to be,” said Lewis, who ends a run of 10 women’s major championships won by Asian players. She was also the last non-Asian player to win a major when she won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2011.
Lewis, who is an inspiration to many youngsters who face adversity, wore a back brace for seven and a half years from the age of 11 to 18 in order to correct a curvature in her spine caused by scoliosis. The only time she didn’t wear it was when playing golf. During high school she also underwent surgery to insert a rod and five screws into her back and it still troubles her from time to time.
She showed her grit and determination, coming through the field with a steady back nine of 36. An eagle putt on 14 slipped by, but the resultant birdie was enough to get her back in contention.
At the difficult 17th, she played a beautiful 5-iron shot that saw her ball finish around three feet from the hole. She then holed a long putt of around 20 feet on 18 to seal a solid round, after playing 36 holes on the same day, due to the suspension of play on Saturday due to strong winds. Hee Young Park and Choi signed for matching final rounds of 73 and tied for second on six-under-par.
The new champion went on to say that her love for St Andrews had also been a contributory factor in her success.
“When we came here for the Curtis Cup, we got here in the morning and in was raining sideways but we all put on Jane jackets and rain gear and just walked around.
“Instantly I just fell in love with it. I think it’s more the history of it than anything, just knowing all the great champions have played here. I mean, golf was started here.
“I love this golf course more than any other links course I’ve played,” she added. “You can get rewarded for good shots. There’s not any crazy bunkers right in the dead centre of the fairways. You can at least kind of play round things and get rewarded for good shots.
“I think I was happy being here all week, and I was comfortable and I think that’s a lot of the reason I’m here right now.”
Third round leader Morgan Pressel of the USA tied for fourth place with Norwegian Suzann Pettersen on five-under-par. America’s Lizette Salas closed with a 73 to finish alone in sixth place on three under par 285 while Japanese duo Mamiko Higa and Miki Saiki were tied seventh on 286. The leading British player was 2009 champion, Catriona Matthew, from North Berwick, who shot 68 in the delayed third round but then fell back with a closing 78 to finish in a tie for 11th place on level par 288.
Inbee Park’s bid for the fourth leg of an historical Grand Slam came to an end when she closed with rounds of 74 and 78 for a six over par total of 294.
“It was a tough day today,” admitted the World No. 1. “I really got off to a bad start when I 4-putted the 1st hole.
“I’m just glad the tournament is over because I’ve gone through four rounds under pressure. Everybody has been watching me. It feels a bit weird because I get to do an interview when I shot 6-over par today.
“It’s a bit of a relief it’s over,” she added. “It’s something I’ve never experienced before. It’s been a great experience. I might not have won this week but I’ve learned a lot.
“The weather and the mother of nature has to be on your side if you’re going to win the British Open and it didn’t happen for me.”
The Smyth Salver, awarded to the leading amateur at the Ricoh Women’s British Open, was shared between New Zealand’s Lydia Ko and England’s Georgia Hall after both players finished the Championship on six over par 294.
World No. 1 amateur, Ko, also won the Smyth Salver last year at Royal Liverpool where she put together rounds of 72, 71, 76 and 78 to finish two shots ahead of England’s Holly Clyburn on nine over par 297.
The only other time the amateur prize was shared was back in 1993 before the Championship was a Major when England’s Joanne Morley and Patricia Meunier from France tied on 297 at Woburn G & CC.
IN THE WINNER’S CIRCLE with STACY LEWIS
2013 RICOH Women’s British Open
The Old Course, St. Andrews
Born: The Woodlands, Texas
Lives: Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Birthdate: February 16, 1985 – currently 28 years, 5 months, and 19 days
Qualified for LPGA Tour: Earned medalist honors at the 2008 LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament
Turned Professional: June 2008
o LPGA: Eighth-career victory; second-career major championship Previous wins: 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship, 2012 Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, 2012 ShopRite LPGA Classic, 2012 Navistar LPGA Classic, 2012 Mizuno Classic, 2013 HSBC Women’s Champions, 2013 RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup
o CAREER: With the $412,500 first-place check, Stacy surpasses LPGA and World Golf Halls of Famer Nancy Lopez to move into the 40th spot on the LPGA Career Money List with $5,422,741
o SEASON: Crosses the $1 million in season earnings for the third time in her career: Stacy has earned $1,329,299 this season and is 2nd on the 2013 LPGA Official Money List
o Maintains the No. 2 spot in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
o Previous finishes at the U.S. Women’s Open: 2007 - CUT; 2008 – T3; 2009 – T48; 2010 – T14; 2011 – T34; 2012 – T46
o Breaks a streak of 10-consecutive Asian-born players winning LPGA major championships and is the first American to win a major since she won her first major title at the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship
o First American to win the Women’s British Open since Sherri Steinhauer won in 2006
o Earned 120 points and finishes the U.S. Solheim Cup Team points race ranked first with 977 points
2013 IN A NUTSHELL
o 17 events, 17 cuts made, $1,329,299 earned, 3 wins, 12 top-10s
o Earned Rolex Player of the Year honors, becoming the first American player to win the award since Beth Daniel in 1994
o 26 events, 25 cuts made, $1,872,409 earned (3), four victories, 12 additional top-10 finishes, three runner-up finishes
o Placed in the top-10 in nine additional categories including greens in regulation (75%), putts per greens in regulation (1.751), scoring average (70.333), rounds under par (58), birdies (362), eagles (12), rounds in the 60’s (33), sub-par holes (374), and finished third on the money list with $1,872,409