Colorado Springs, Colo. – Eight years is a long time, but not long enough to make Angela Stanford forget.
In the 2003 U.S. Women's Open, Stanford hit one of the most memorable shots of her career, sinking a 20-foot putt on the 72nd hole to join a three-way playoff at Pumpkin Ridge. The distinction as “one of the most memorable” is important, because Stanford made an even longer putt the next day on the same green.
A shot behind Hilary Lunke on the final hole of the 18-hole playoff, Stanford ran in a 27-foot birdie putt to potentially tie again. However, Lunke stepped up and drained her own birdie putt to end the drama and capture the championship, relegating Stanford and Kelly Robbins to second.
“You always remember those things, I remember it like it was yesterday,” Stanford said.
Eight years later, as an exhausting 66th Women's Open heads to a Monday conclusion, Stanford has another chance to do something spectacular. She trails the leader in the clubhouse, Hee Kyung Seo, by three strokes with four holes to finish.
“It's nice,” Stanford said. “It's good to know exactly what I have to do. It's been beautiful every morning here. The good news is, I'm playing a stretch of holes that you can make three birdies. I like the last four holes. When I get out here in the morning, I'll be ready to attack them.”
Stanford will not be on the mission alone. As darkness fell on The Broadmoor, Seo was able to complete a spectacular 36 holes on Sunday, shooting back-to-back rounds of 68, scaling the leaderboard from three over par to a pace-setting three under par. Seo, 24, from Korea, leads fellow Korean So Yeon Ryu by a stroke.
Ryu, 21, playing in her first Women's Open, still has three holes to play, and was more than happy to leave that business unfinished. When the horn blew at 8 p.m. MDT to end another weather-disrupted day, light rain was falling and strong winds were gusting.
“Now it is a really strong breeze, but maybe tomorrow morning it will be good weather and the greens will be a little softer, so maybe it's great for me,” Ryu said. “I played 33 holes and I am really tired. I like the 16th hole and No. 17, and lately my irons have been really great, so I am going to trust myself.”
Cristie Kerr is another within striking distance of Seo. A winner of 14 LPGA events, including the 2007 Women's Open, Kerr is one under and will rejoin the battle trailing by two strokes with two holes to play.
Some might call it a tall order, but Kerr begged to differ. The fiery competitor was even defiant in assessing her chances, taking exception to Seo conducting a television interview off to the side.
“I don't know why she's celebrating because the championship isn't over yet,” Kerr said. “I feel like I'm playing great, so I'm going to go out and swing for the fences and hopefully tie it up.”
Kerr acknowledged the circumstances are unique, coming to the course in the morning with the task at hand specifically laid out in front of her. But she looks forward to the challenge.
“It's been a very long week and I'm excited I get to come out here and finish it tomorrow,” the 33-year-old Kerr said. “Playing the last two holes in the dark probably wouldn't have been fun, and having played that much golf and had a long day... I'll come out fresh tomorrow and rested.
“I'm going to give it my all, I always do. There's other girls on the golf course who still have more holes to play as well, so it's not over yet.”
Stanford, 33, also was glad to put away the clubs and fight another day. At one point on Sunday, she was four under and tied for the lead with Seo. But a wayward 5-iron and a chunky chip led to a double bogey at No. 11, and she fell two strokes back. Stanford proceeded to bogey Nos. 13 and 14 before the horn blew. A break couldn't have come at a better time.
“I was ready to call it quits today,” she said. “Things can happen out here really easy and I had been very fortunate that it hadn't happened yet this week... I don't know, I guess you could say it's fatigue, but I wouldn't say that. It's probably more mental than physical.”
Knowing exactly what she needs to do on Monday, Stanford said she will come back reinvigorated.
“I'm excited about the opportunity,” she said.