Oakmont, Pa. – Brittany Lang gave herself another chance to win a U.S. Women’s Open. She came up short, but by taking the long view, she could hardly say she was disappointed.
Some lessons can be difficult, and others can be welcome. Lang is happy to claim the latter after another near miss on golf’s biggest stage.
I think I made a good run at it, and I’m not disappointed at all, though I might think about a few shots later on when I have some time to review it, the 24-year-old Texan said while signing autographs after she closed with a 2-under-par 69 Sunday at Oakmont Country Club, and ended up tied for fifth in the 65th Women’s Open. I know if I keep giving myself chances then something good is going to happen eventually.
Lang, who posted her best finish in relation to par in a U.S. Women’s Open at 3-over 287, is still looking for her first LPGA title, but her performance this week marks her second close call in the biggest championship in women’s golf. The former Duke All-American tied for second in her Open debut in 2005 at Cherry Hills Country Club outside Denver – one of the victims of Birdie Kim’s extraordinary hole-out for birdie on the 72nd hole – after holding the first-round lead.
A similar narrative unfolded at Oakmont, where she grabbed the lead after an opening 69 and was still hanging around the top of the field going into the final nine holes. This time there was no lightning strike at the finish. Lang simply ran out of gas after making a run up the board to within two strokes of Paula Creamer, who never relinquished the lead on Sunday as she steadily marched to her first Open victory.
Lang went out in 34, and after birdies at the 12th and 13th from 3 and 6 feet, respectively, she stood four under for the day and one over for the championship, while Creamer had slipped back to one under par. That was as close as it would get.
Lang couldn’t sustain the torrid pace on what turned out to be the best day for scoring at Oakmont. She pulled a 4-iron into the bunker left of the green at No. 15 and didn’t save par, and she followed with her only three-putt of the day, at the 16th from 50 feet.
I felt really good out there. My mind was working well. I was swinging it well. I felt very solid and relaxed, said Lang, who earned her second top-10 and best finish of the year. I was seeing my shots and seeing what I wanted. And I putted phenomenally. I got a little nervous coming down the stretch. I got to four under, got a little ahead of myself. Something to learn – stick to my process and not get outcome-focused.
She wasn’t too far out of focus all week.
The source of her good finish was her putting, which she said has been improving in the last year. Though she came into the week ranked 125th among LPGA players in that statistical category, Lang ranked first during the championship in total putting, tying Amy Yang with 119 strokes over 72 holes on Oakmont’s famously tricky surfaces.
Then there was her overall steady play. Lang never carded worse than bogey over 72 holes. Not even the winner, Creamer, could make that claim.
Clearly, Lang has an aptitude for handling difficult golf examinations. She even showed that as she completed her third round Saturday morning. Lang had to play four holes, and she managed to scratch out a 75. I wasn’t firing on all cylinders, but I was making some par putts and was patient, she said.
I have a lot of patience, I have a great attitude, and I’m a phenomenal ball-striker and that’s what wins Opens – ball striking, added Lang, who finished 38th in greens in regulation and 45th in driving accuracy, in assessing why she has been able to play some of her best golf in the U.S. Women’s Open.
The key is to build on those lessons, and she’ll get her next chance with three weeks abroad, including the Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England.
It was a great week and I’m happy with the finish, Lang said. I’m very pleased, and I can only learn from this.
Dave Shedloski is a freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on USGA websites.