A five shot lead going into the final round at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur wasn’t enough as the woman’s amateur field played the final round at Augusta National. Rose Zhang, No. 1 Women’s Amateur in the world and a member of the Stanford University championship golf team, held that lead gained with two spectacular rounds of 65 and 66 at the Champion’s Retreat Golf Club in Augusta. Rose had a number of bad omens going into the final round including inclement weather with gusty winds and an indifferent playing history having played over par in final rounds at Augusta.prior to this round. Rose immediately got off to a poor start with a double bogey 6 on the tough first hole while the wind was howling. She simply didn’t look comfortable as she was 3 over through the first seven holes when play was suspended due to weather. When play resumed, conditions seemed to be a bit easier as the greens seemed to be less treacherous but the field continued to leave putts short. Jenny Bae, who competes for the University of Georgia golf team, seemed comfortable and confident and played well through the bad weather and started to close the gap on Zhang. It seemed that Zhang didn’t have her best stuff and she seemed to fighting her swing. After a 3 hour delay, Zhang resumed play on the 8th hole but Zhang could not convert a birdie opportunity but started to steady the ship with pars. Her swing seemed more composed but putts were not dropping. After a missed iron shot that left her in a precarious position in the left scrub brush on No. 10-she managed to get up and down with a wonderful chip shot. She was available to navigate Amen Corner without incident and laced a drive on the par 5, 15th. After a considerable wait for the green to clear and a long discussion with her caddy, her father, she decided to go for the green from 210 yards. It was certainly a tough decision but she decided to go for the green and the shot careened into the pond. An indifferent chip shot and the lead was cut to one with a clutch bogey putt. Up ahead, Bae kept cruising and hit a wonderful iron shot to a few feet on 17 for a birdie to tie for the lead. Zhang seemed unfazed as her swing seemed to click in but she could not convert the birdie opportunities on the way in. She only had 111 yards on 17 and less than 130 yards on 18 but she could not get close enough to the hole to secure a birdie and the win. It seemed that she was unwilling to attack the pins in an effort to avoid being above the hole. Zhang and Bae would move to sudden death extra holes alternating between 18 and 10. After both women parred the first playoff hole, Bae faltered on her approach shot on the 10th hole. Bae’s approach shot on 10 landed left of the hole under a bush, and her shot out of the bush found the front bunker. Zhang now had two putts to win and she nearly holed the first one for the victory.
Although Zhang squandered a five shot lead, she maintained tremendous concentration and focus under pressure knowing she didn’t have her best stuff. Golf makes it easy to become negative and start doubting yourself even if you have accomplished almost everything there is to win in Women’s Amateur Golf. The game wants to speed up so you can compensate for your errant shots and this usually leads to more of the same. Bae looked unbeatable with tremendous confidence in her ball striking down the stretch but one bad shot cost her the tournament. Zhang did not succumb to the pressure–she overcame it and slowed the game down as the “gods of golf” prompted her to speed up. For Zhang, it’s another tremendous accomplishment and getting through another tough day at Augusta National.
The men come charging in to Augusta this coming week for the Masters. It should be a week full of intrigue with Tiger Woods playing as well as the fugitives from the LIV Tour such as Mickelsen, Johnson, DeChambeau etc. so it should be highly entertaining with golf and perhaps some other extracurricular commentary. Personally I like Rory McIlroy’s chances in the event and Scottie Scheffler may also put a pretty strong defense of his title. This year’s Master’s may double as not only a significant golf venue but a soap opera drama as the sniping between the PGA Tour and Greg Norman’s LIV Tour continue to rage on. At least the golf will be exceptional.