South Korea’s Jiyai Shin produced one of the finest performances of her illustrious career when she defied atrocious weather to close with a battling one over par 73 and claim a commanding nine shot victory in the 2012 Ricoh Women’s British Open at a wet and windswept Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
It was a performance which produced the biggest margin of victory since the Ricoh Women’s British Open became a major back in 2001 and it extended Asian golf’s current domination of the women’s professional game.
Shin’s victory means that for the first time in history Asians have won all four of the women’s Majors in a single calendar year with South Korea’s Sun Young Yoo winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship, China’s Shanshan Feng claiming the LPGA Championship and South Korea’s Na Yeon Choi beating the field at the US Women’s Open earlier this year.
The South Korean’s performance extends Asia’s winning sequence in the women’s Majors to seven with Taiwan’s Yani Tseng (LPGA Championship and Ricoh Women’s British Open) and So Yeon Ryu (US Women’s Open) emerging victorious in the last three majors in 2011.
It also means that Asians have now won four out of the five last Ricoh Women’s British Opens with Shin’s own victory at Sunningdale in 2008 being followed by consecutive victories by Tseng at Royal Birkdale in 2010 and Carnoustie in 2011.
Shin arrived on Merseyside fresh from a play-off win at last week’s Kingsmill Championship in Virginia and she maintained that sort of sparkling form with rounds of 71, 64, 71 and 73 for a nine under par total of 279 and a nine shot victory over compatriot Inbee Park.
Park closed with a 76 to finish a single shot ahead of Paula Creamer who started the last round in 10th place but battled through the pack with a magnificent level par 72. That left the American in third place on 289 with Japan’s Mika Miyazato on 290 after a 77 and Australia’s Karrie Webb and South Korean So Yeon Ryu in fifth place on 291.
Americans, Stacey Lewis and Katie Futcher, finished tied eighth on 294 while 2009 Ricoh British Women’s Open champion, Catriona Matthew, showed characteristic grit by finishing with a 75 to squeeze into a share of tenth place with Korea’s In Kyung Kim and Chella Choi.
Shin started the final day with a five shot lead over compatriot Park but was just three shots ahead of 37 year-old Webb after the Australian fired a fine four under par 68 in a third round which had been put back until Sunday morning because violent winds caused play to be abandoned two days earlier.
Three-time champion, Webb, looked the most serious threat to the Asian hegemony but she was to drop four shots on the first three holes of her final round and went on to card an 82 to lose the chance to add to her previous Ricoh Women’s British Open victories at Woburn in 1995, Sunningdale in 1997 and Turnberry in 2002.
Shin also dropped back with a calamitous triple bogey seven on the 392-yard par-4 first but quickly adapted to the treacherous conditions. She regained her momentum with birdies on the 157-yard par-3 6th and the 383-yard par-4 7th and was four ahead of Webb when she reached in the turn in two over par 37 after a bogey on the 382-yard par-4 8th.
Strong wind, coupled with torrential rain, resulted in a brief suspension in play after Shin carded a par down the long 493-yard par-5 10th. She dropped a shot on the subsequent hole but then produced battling birdies on the 13th, 15th and 16th before carding a bogey on her penultimate hole which left her nine shots in front and just two shots away for equalling Ayako Okamoto’s record for the biggest win in the Championship’s history set at Woburn in 1984.
“I can’t put into words how happy I feel to win the title for a second time,” said Shin after collecting a winner’s cheque for £266,143.
“My first win in 2008 changed my life. This week, this win, I think it will change it too. I said at the start of the week I wanted to play every round in one under par so to get to nine under in this weather on a course as tough as this is incredible. Now I know I can get a good score on any course, I’m pretty sure of that”
“I can’t tell you why so many Asian players are winning majors at the moment,” she added. “Maybe it’s down to hard work. Maybe it’s luck, or a bit of both.”
The Smyth Salver awarded to the leading amateur went to New Zealand’s Lydia Ko who put together rounds of 72, 71, 76 and78 for a nine over par total of 297 and a two stroke victory over England’s Holly Clyburn.
Ko arrived at Hoylake having won this year’s US Women’s Amateur and then followed that up by becoming the youngest ever winner on the LPGA Tour by winning the CN Canadian Open at the age of 15 years, four months and two days.
The Korean-born Ko started the final round tied with Clyburn on three over par 219 but was all-but guaranteed a prize won in the past by the likes of Michelle Wie (2005), Amy Yang (2006), Melissa Reid (2007), Anna Nordqvist (2008), Caroline Hedwall (2010) and Danielle Kang (2011) when Clyburn struggled to the turn in 44. The English Curtis Cup player fought back by carding a one under par 36 over the second nine but could not do quite enough to repair the damage.
“I have got the award for the leading amateur and that’s what I wanted after I made the cut,” said Ko. “This is my first experience of the British Open. I didn’t play as well as I wanted but I have won the amateur prize so it wasn’t a bad day.
“It was playing really tough out there,” she added. “This is one of the hardest courses I have ever played and there were times when the weather made it almost impossible to play.”
Four out of the ten amateurs in this year’s field made the cut which was reduced to the top-50 and ties due to the inclement weather. Bronte Law closed with a 77 to finish one shot behind Clyburn on 300 while China’s Jing Yan finished on 304 after a 78.