SAN MARTIN—The U.S. Women’s Open was decided by a club grazing the sand.
Anna Lundqvist was penalized two strokes on the second playoff hole when her club touched the sand while drawing back to take her shot. Brittany Lang took the win after she finished with a par on 18.
Lang is just the fourth American in the last 10 years to win a U.S. Women’s Open and the first since Michelle Wie did it in 2014.
“I’ve always dreamed of winning the U.S. Open. I have so much respect for the USGA and for this tournament,” Lang said. “And to see these players — I actually said something to somebody in Arkansas, and I just feel like I have extremely underachieved as a golfer. I feel like I’m so capable of doing so much more than I’ve done. And this is just a little start to boost me.”
It was a shockingly disappointing end for Nordqvist who started the day six shots back of the lead and battled all the way back to force a playoff.
“You know, Anna is such a great player, it’s so unfortunate to have something like that happen,” Lang said. “But, you know, she’s a classy girl, and I think the USGA handled it well. I’m thankful they told me before my wedge shot so I could take a little bit more club. But it’s just part of the game and it’s unfortunate.”
Lang had a chance to win it in regulation, but bogeyed No. 17 and settled for a par on No. 18 to open up a three-hole playoff.
“That was a very dumb mistake on 17. I hit two beautiful shots and I had a putt that was not very difficult and I just hit it too hard,” Lang said. “I thought the wind might hold it up a little bit. That was really, really, really dumb to run that putt by like that. I had no clue where I was, so I was just trying to get a birdie look on 18. I was definitely feeling some nerves.”
Both players were even with each other and before Lang hit her third shot on the par-5 18th, which was the final playoff hole. That’s when officials told both golfers of the penalty. Lundqvist had just taken her third shot.
“Well, first, I couldn’t really believe that it happened,” Lundqvist said. “It wasn’t my intention to ground the club. It’s blowing 35, 40 out there, and I had a 5-iron off a downhill lie in the bunker. It’s been a long day, a long week. So probably misjudged it a little bit and touched a little bit of sand and that is a penalty.”
Lundqvist questioned why she wasn’t told until after her third shot.
“It happened on 17. If you saw it on TV and there’s quite long time between shot on 17 and third shot on 18,” Lundqvist said. “With all the cameras and all the attention, they should have told me when it happened or walking up on 18.”
Lang was understanding of the USGA’s predicament and said they should always get the information out as fast as they can, which she feels they did.
“I think they should tell you as soon as they know. I really don’t think today was that big of a deal,” Lang said. “They found out at a certain point and then they told when they found out. Anna happened to hit her third shot. So I don’t think there’s any problem there.”
This was not the look the USGA wanted after Dustin Johnson was not told if he would be assessed a penalty during his U.S. Open win.
He caused his ball to move on the 15th green and the USGA would not tell him until after his round if he would be assessed a penalty. At the time, there was a real chance that penalty would affect the outcome of the tournament.
Johnson went on to win despite the penalty.
“I thought it was pretty unfair what they were dealing with,” Lundqvist said. “And hopefully these kind of are situations it’s nothing that no one will ever have to deal with again. But it’s golf and there’s just so many rules. But they’re there for a reason.
The USGA said they tried to assess if a penalty had occurred as quickly as they could and informed the players as soon as they knew.
“We did not know where the players were on 18. We told the referee to inform the players as soon as possible,” said John Bodenhamer, Senior Managing Director, Rules, Competitions & Equipment Standards.
He said Fox Sports called to ask about a possible infraction. At first, Bodenhamer said, an official did not see the infraction, but they decided to get a closer look. It was then they saw Fox’s close up and gave Lundqvist a two-stroke penalty.
“We concluded that it was a breach. We quickly consulted with our committee and decided that we would inform Anna immediately,” Bodenhamer said. “We immediately notified the referee, who, as quickly as he could, notified Anna and Brittany. That’s the sequence of events.”
That was not the drama everyone thought they would be talking about when the U.S. Women’s Open concluded.
The world’s No. 1 golfer, who had entered the day 7-under and eventually held a two-shot lead at 8-under when she abruptly fell back.
“I made kind of a dumb bogey on 8 and found some trouble on 9,” said Lydia Ko. “And I think that kind of took me off a little bit. But I tried to have a positive mindset. There were still nine more holes to go. And you just never know what happened.
The lead group like wise took a dramatic step backward.
That surprisingly opened the door to Lang who played steady all day and Lundqvist who shot 5-under.
Starting the day, Ko had the momentum, temperament and course conditions to cruise to a win.
No. 9 had different plans.
Ko doubled the ninth and dropped quickly and that opened the door for Lang who won the U.S. Women’s Open in dramatic fashion in a three-hole playoff.
“Even though I knew I was falling more and more behind, I didn’t want to say, hey, I want to give up,” Ko said. “Because at the end, even though it was a very small chance, you know, I could have still made the wedge and gone in the playoff. I think that’s why it’s a true statement to say you can never really give up until the very end.
Lang had a bogey on No. 17, which opened the door for Lundqvist to stay alive.
Once Ko fell off the pace, there was a mad dash for who was going to take the win.
Nordqvist had a 5-under day including an eagle on the par 5 15th. Lang stayed consistent and had the lead fall in her lap as the lead group plummeted off the pace.
“I mean, to start the day, I thought if you could get to six or seven, you’d probably have a pretty good chance,” said Stacy Lewis, who finished in seventh at 2-under. “With this wind and this golf course later in the day and with the pressure of the leaders, I knew they weren’t going to get too far away. Obviously Anna showed that the score was out there, that it was out there today.”
Like on Saturday, Ko had a bad time on No. 9. But unlike then, she wasn’t able to recover.
She missed left off the tee and lost a ball in a creek that transverses the fairway and had to take a drop.
Ko had already bogeyed No. 8 and was forced to take a double-bogey and couldn’t recover.
She hooked a tee on No. 10.
Lang started shaky, getting a bird on No. 1 but immediately bogeyed No. 2 to stay at 5-under through her opening holes.
But a birdie on No. 5, one on 13 and her final on No. 16 overcame a hiccup on No. 8.
Her 6-under playoff win was a far cry from how the tournament started with Mirim Lee’s 8-under opening round.
Lee fell off quick on the second day, opening the door for the field.
Ko took over on the third with a 7-under after 54 holes.
Lang, meanwhile overcame a three-over 75 on her second day, stayed solid on her third and just played easy, consistent golf on the final to win the tournament.
SAN MARTIN—The U.S. Women’s Open was decided by a club grazing the sand.