Coronation Or Comeback At Blackwolf Run?

Choi has 6-shot lead, but there are many pursuers ready to pounce in final round


Amy Yang will be paired with 54-hole leader and fellow Korean Na Yeon Choi on Sunday, hoping to erase a six-stroke deficit at Blackwolf Run. (Fred Vuich/USGA)
By Dave Shedloski
July 7, 2012

Kohler, Wis. – The six-stroke lead that Na Yeon Choi carries into today’s final round of the 67th U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run appears insurmountable.

Might as well hand her the trophy now, seeing how no one in the history of the championship has ever come from more than five shots back over the last 18 holes.

But since there is one round remaining, and the weather is supposed to be quite nice, we might as well let them play it.

A stunning 7-under-par 65 on a wind-swept Saturday lifted Choi to the championship pace-setting role at 8-under 208 and relegated the rest of the field to that of frantic pursuers.

Fellow Korean Amy Yang, who is at 214, will play in the final pairing today with Choi at noon CDT. Lexi Thompson, Mika Miyazato and Sandra Gal are next with 215 aggregate scores. Nobody else is under par.

Everyone will be under duress. Even the leader.

“Honestly, it will be a lot of pressure [today], but I know what I have to do, and I know what I can control,” said the 24-year-old Choi, seeking her first major title.

What’s interesting is that Choi isn’t the kind of person comfortable in the spotlight or with a bull’s eye on her. When Stacy Lewis passed her for No. 2 in the world behind Yani Tseng, Choi didn’t mind one bit.

“I like chasing somebody rather than leading. Chasing, I can play aggressive,” she said last month.

Now everyone else has no choice but to chase.

"I'm a chaser. I love chasing, you know, so definitely I have a confidence factor in the fact that I have won a national championship and I can do it again," said 2010 champion Paula Creamer, sitting nine back at 217. "It's just having some putts fall and getting some good breaks out there."

“Going to go low [today].  We'll see if the conditions allow,” said Cristie Kerr, the 2007 winner, who also trails by nine.

Conditions and course setup have allowed one low round the last two days – Michelle Wie’s 66 preceding Choi’s 65. Both were course records.

Perhaps one of the nearest pursuers will be able to conjure up a few birdies on Sunday’s course configuration, but the scouting report suggests a deep foray into red figures will require a special performance.

Ben Kimball, director of the U.S. Women's Open, said hole locations for the final round vary from medium to hard, much like Saturday. Scoring opportunities, as they have all week, might be found on the par-5s. Hitting fairways with the proper shot shape is paramount given that the rough hasn’t been mowed in days and is getting sticky. The weather forecast calls for warm sunshine and winds tapering off.

Yang said she would not change a thing in trying to reel in Choi. “I’m just going to keep being patient, try to do my best,” she said, seeming almost disinterested in going after her compatriot.

Thompson, at 17 trying to become the youngest major champion, also indicated a disinclination to push the issue.

“I'm not going to just try to go after her,” said Thompson. “I'm going to play my own game and the golf course. That's all I can do is focus on my game and nobody else's. I'm not going to have any different mindset, just go in with the same attitude, confidence and trust my shots out here and play the way I have been.”

“I'm going to stay aggressive, play smart,” said Vicky Hurst, alone at even-par 216, suggesting she’d walk a fine line between two strategies. “I'm not going to get tempted, though. I'm not going to go for ridiculous pins or anything like that.  I think just playing smart and aggressive is the way to go.”

Some players promise aggressiveness, others an adherence to a more conservative game plan. It will be fascinating to watch how well their intentions correspond to their desired outcome.

Only Choi has the luxury of playing percentages, hitting to the middle of those big greens at Blackwolf Run, engaging in golf’s version of the four corners stall. But she still has to hit golf shots, too.

“I'm pretty sure I'll be nervous, but I think I won't miss that feeling,” said Choi, seeking her first win of the season and sixth overall on the LPGA Tour. “I think it's time to get back on track. I have confidence and this is a good opportunity to be winning [a] U.S. Open.  So I just hope to get good warm-up and go out there with my caddie and have fun.”

Yes, well, it’s always more fun winning.

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites. 

Follow the USGA
Become a Facebook Fan of the USGAFollow us on Twitter @usopengolf
World Amateur Golf Ranking
WAGR Counting Event
Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
Chevron
   

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.


Chevron image
Rolex
   

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.



Rolex image
IBM
   

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website, www.usopen.com, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit http://www.usopen.com/IBM

AmEx image
Lexus
   

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit http://www.lexus.com/

AmEx image
American Express
   

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit www.americanexpress.com/entertainment


AmEx image