America’s Mo Martin produced two of the finest shots of her life to storm through the field and win the 2014 Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale Golf Club.
Standing on the 18th tee two shots behind the leaders, the diminutive 31 year-old from Altadena, California, hit a 240-yard drive straight down the middle and then a full 3-wood which ricocheted off the pin, setting up an 6-foot eagle putt which she holed for a level par 72 and a one under par aggregate of 287.
Some 75 minutes later, that spectacular eagle proved to be enough to give the American a one shot victory over Shanshan Feng and Suzann Pettersen as both the Chinese player and her Norwegian rival tried, but failed, to catch her coming down the stretch.
Third round leader, Inbee Park, also battled to the end but a bogey on the last hole saw the Korean close with a 77, two shots behind the surprise winner.
Martin’s victory was worth £277,887 ($456,818) and extended the sequence which has seen American players win all of the year’s first three Majors for the first time since 1999. It also gave the new champion her first victory since claiming the third of her trio of Futures (Symetra) Tour titles at the Eagle Classic in Richmond, Virginia, back in 2011.
Martin had held the lead after two opening rounds of 69 but then dropped back into a share of seventh place after carding a five over par 77 on Saturday. There were those who thought the World No. 99 had lost her chance to claim the title but the player herself clearly was not one of them as she defied the strengthening wind to play the first 17 holes in 69 shots before producing her knock-out blow on the last.
“I think I still need to be pinched,” admitted Martin, before dedicating her first Major victory to her grandfather, Lincoln Martin, who became a major influence in her life when her father died when she was 19 but who passed away earlier this year, aged 102
“He was a very kind, gentle man,” she said. “My Dad didn’t really have a relationship with him. My Grandpa didn’t agree with some of the things he did. But, when my Dad passed away, I knew my Grandpa was someone I really wanted to get to know. So I made a trip to his ranch in California and walked into his office and found all sorts of newspaper articles and pictures of me. I started crying because I didn’t know he was that involved in my life.
“We didn’t have much money growing up but we still have the ranch and this win will help to keep in the family.”
Pettersen, Ahn and Park all played major roles in what was a captivating final day but the last round turned out to be a huge disappointment for English teenager, Charley Hull, who had shot into contention after carding a six under par 66 the previous day . The 18 year-old Solheim Cup player started the final round in a tie for seventh place but carded a six over par 78 to drop back into a share of 12th place alongside defending champion Stacy Lewis, Gwladys Nocera, Azahara Munoz and Anna Nordqvist.
“I played rubbish today, to be honest,” Hull admitted. “I was a bit nervous because the ball was moving and stuff on the greens. But I’ve learned a lot from this round today, again. It’s just a shame I couldn’t birdie the last to finish inside the top-10.”
The leading British player turned out to be 50 year-old veteran, Dame Laura Davies, who was making her 34th appearance in the championship and who finished with a birdie for a one over par 73 to share 9th place with Sun-Ju Ahn and Marina Alex on four over par 292. That top-10 finish guaranteed her place in next year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open field at Turnberry.
“I have played well all week,” confirmed the English woman who won the championship at Birkdale back in1986. “The first day was a bit disappointing because I played better than the score. Yesterday, I got off to a horrible start, three over after two, but battled back (to a 72).
“That was probably my best round of the year,” she added. “Today was obviously much tougher, with the wind. It was a lot of long irons. I think on the first two holes I hit a 2-iron for my second shot into the first, a 3-iron second shot into the second and that’s par-4s, not par 5s. Normally, it’s a different game for me.”
America’s Emma Talley claimed the Smyth Salver awarded to the leading amateur after closing with a fine one over par 73 that saw her finish three shots ahead of last year’s joint winner Georgia Hall on six over par 294.
Talley’s 72-hole aggregate was also enough to see her move up into a tie for 17th place with Beatriz Recari, Amelia Lewis and So Yeon Rhu
The America started the final round two shots ahead of Hall but with the English Curtis Cup player carding a battling 74 she did not have a comfortable lead until she birdied the penultimate hole.
“At the start of the week all I wanted to do was play well,” said the 20 year-old from Kentucky after being congratulated by her former University of Alabama team-mate, Stephanie Meadow, who had finished third in her first two starts as a professional at the US Women’s Open and the ISPS Handa European Masters but who did not survive the cut at Royal Birkdale.
“It’s very exciting. Making the cut was great and now being the top amateur is even better.
Talley went on to pay tribute to the contribution made by her father, Dan, who caddied for her during the championship. “It was very special,” she said. “Last year we got to experience winning together at the US Am so he’s very good at caddying for me. He keeps me calm and it kind of feels like we are just playing at home for fun.”
Hall will turn professional in the next couple of weeks and is hoping to get some invites on the Ladies European Tour.
“It was tough out there,” said the 2013 British Amateur champion. “I’d say it was about three shots harder than earlier in the week so I’ve got to be pleased with a 74.”
“The wind got so strong that I could actually hear the rough walking up the 18th hole,” she added.