Colorado Springs, Colo. – Another near washout at The Broadmoor. But enough golf was played that a champion is close to being identified.
For the fourth consecutive day at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open, the round that was scheduled to be completed wasn’t finished. But 24-year-old Korean Hee Kyung Seo was able to sneak into the clubhouse minutes before play was suspended due to darkness at 8 p.m. MDT with a championship-leading 3-under 281. She stands one stroke ahead of fellow Korean So Yeon Ryu, who has three holes to play, and two ahead of Cristie Kerr, who has two holes remaining.
“I’ll just pray and wait,” said Seo, who tied for fifth at last year’s Women’s British Open. “I did my best and I did all my things, so even if I could not be winner, I don't mind. I just did my best, and that's all.”
Those trailing her said the crown shouldn’t be conceded just yet. There’s still golf to be played. One of those was 2007 Women’s Open champion Kerr.
“I have two holes left,” said Kerr. “The tournament is not decided yet. I think she's over there celebrating. We all have a chance. There are two accessible pins on 17 and 18. I'm playing great. I'm going to go out and swing for the fences and hopefully tie it up.”
Angela Stanford, even par through 14 holes, added: “Well, I think the good thing is I like the last four holes. There is really only one issue I have in the last four holes. But the good news is I like those holes, and so when I get out here in the morning I'll be ready to attack them.”
Resumption of play will be at 8 a.m. MDT with 36 players still on the course. For the rest of the field, there’s still something to play for. The top 10 scorers and ties gain an exemption into the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open.
Coverage of the championship will air live on ESPN2. It will be the first non-playoff Monday finish since 1987 at Plainfield (N.J.) Country Club.
The USGA was attempting to complete the third and fourth rounds on the 7,047-yard, par-71 East Course on Sunday after storms caused multiple stoppages this week. But play was halted by thunderstorms for about 2½ hours in the late afternoon at 3:18 p.m., dashing the chance to complete the championship on the scheduled day.
The 54-hole clubhouse leaders were Kerr, Ryu and Stanford, all at 1-under 212. This was after second-round leader Mika Miyazato dropped five strokes and shot 5-over 76 in the third round.
When the third round began, Seo was tied for 27th at three over par. Through three rounds, she had played the outward nine in eight under par and the inward nine in three over par.
Seo got on a roll in the final round by birdieing four consecutive holes from No. 6 to turn in 31. A mishap on No. 10 pulled her back to four under, which gave Stanford, the 2003 runner-up, an opportunity to catch her. On the ninth hole, Stanford converted a 15-footer that banged the back of the hole and stayed in for birdie.
She tied Seo at four under.
The two remained tied for two holes until Stanford made a costly error on the 440-yard, par-4 11th hole. She had 165 yards to the flagstick, but yanked her approach shot. The ball bounded into the left greenside rough, and she chunked the chip and the ball stopped 40 feet short of the hole. She ended up three-putting for double bogey.
“I knew if I hit that 5‑iron too hard or if I pulled it, it was going to be long,” said Stanford. “I hit a terrible chip. I misread the lie and just didn't hit a very good second putt. Things that, you know, can happen out here really easy.”
In the meantime, Seo played steady golf. After her bogey on No. 10, she registered six consecutive pars. Ryu had inched within a stroke, but suffered a bogey on No. 12 to drop to two under.
Seo lost momentum with a bogey on the par-5 17th hole. By then, raindrops had started again and she was trying to finish before another delay or darkness. Her 24-foot birdie attempt burned the lip, but she ended up bogeying after missing her 3-foot comebacker.
After the Wegmans LPGA Championship in Rochester, N.Y., Seo got away with her parents to nearby Niagara Falls, where they told her she could be a top player if she wanted. It was all up to her.
“When I was playing well in Korea, I think I really 100 percent trusted myself, so I was trying to keep trusting myself, and then it happened,” she said.
Note: Low-amateur honors will go to 16-year-old Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand, who posted 10-over 294 (T-33), finishing six shots ahead of both Victoria Tanco and Lindy Duncan. Reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Danielle Kang still has three holes to play, but stands at 19 over par…If there is a three-hole playoff, it would be played on holes 16 thru 18, with 18 being played again, if necessary.
Ken Klavon is the USGA’s online editor. E-mail questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.