SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Na Yeon Choi acquitted herself well in defense of the U.S. Women’s Open title she won a year ago at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., finishing in the top 20 for the fifth time in seven appearances.
Despite not making a birdie in the final round, Choi, 25, of Korea, closed with a 3-over-par 75 Sunday at Sebonack Golf Club and ended up tied for 17th at 7-over 295.
“I didn't have any birdies today, so it was tough,” said Choi, who now lives in Orlando, Fla. “Yesterday was tough, too, but I got four birdies out there. I think I putt 19 [times] on back nine. I did my best until the last hole and just my putts didn't work well, so now I know what I have to practice.”
Choi, who owns seven LPGA titles but has yet to win in 2013, said she enjoyed her year as the Women’s Open champion.
“Last four days, four rounds, every first hole I heard the announcement I won, you know, 2012 U.S. Women's Open champion. I feel great. If I compare this year and last year, I mean, the result is a big difference. Still, I'm very proud of myself playing in this tournament. The course was very tough, but I love to play this golf course. I think this is good golf.”
Good Rebound for Feng
After bogeying the first two holes, Shanshan Feng, of the People’s Republic of China, shot a 2-under-par 70 to share the day’s best round with amateur Casie Cathrea. The result also vaulted her into the top 10 and an automatic exemption into the 2014 Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.
It was Feng’s second consecutive top 10 at the Women’s Open after finishing no better than tied for 42nd in her first five appearances.
“I have been talking with my coach about staying patient, and I did that today after not starting too well,” said Feng, 23, who tied for fourth last year at Blackwolf Run and shared ninth in 2013 with Brittany Lincicome.
Feng made four birdies on the inward nine, including a pair of 3-footers at 13 and 16. She also birdied the 10th from 15 feet and the 17th from 20 feet.
She said her improved play the last two years is the product of not putting too much pressure on herself just because it’s a major championship. “I’ve learned to relax more, though I still try my best,” said the winner of the 2012 LPGA Championship. “I just needed to stop trying so hard.”
Sebonack shows toughness
After two rounds of the 68th U.S. Women’s Open, Inbee Park was nine under par and 10 other players were in red figures. But Sebonack Golf Club proved a stiffer test on the weekend when the hole locations were more challenging, the tees were moved back and the wind blew more consistently.
The result: just three players finished under par, and Park actually played 1-over-par golf on the weekend (71-74), finishing at 8-under 280.
Just five players posted a sub-par score on the weekend, four on Sunday. Meanwhile, there were 17 rounds of 80 or higher in the final two rounds.
“This is my sixth U.S. Open, so I would say that this one had, by far, the hardest greens, and it was the windiest out of all of them,” said Jessica Korda, who tied for seventh at 2-over 290. “I would say by far I had so many in‑between clubs these last two days, and you’re just standing there and you don't know what this ball's going to do. Is it going to sit? Is it going to go? Is the wind going to take it? It’s pretty mentally draining out there.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.