Na Yeon Choi
Na Yeon Choi took all the excitement out of the 2012 U.S. Women's Open championship on Saturday with a remarkable seven-under-par 65.
Entering the final round with a commanding six-shot lead, the 24-year-old South Korean needed only a one-over-par 73 performance on Sunday to cruise to her first major championship victory.
Blackwolf Run, the site of the 67th U.S. Women's Open, won this battle against all but two players—Choi and second-place finisher Amy Yang. Choi finished at seven-under par and Yang at three-under. They were the only two players in red numbers when the tournament ended.
Choi and Yang dominated the rest of the field, but here is a power ranking of the five best performances at the 2012 U.S. Women's Open.
Reigning LPGA Championship winner Shanshan Feng very quietly got herself into contention at the U.S. Women's Open.
In what turned out to be a race for third place, Feng barely made the cut before firing weekend rounds of matching 71s to finish in a tie for fourth place.
According to ASAP Sports, she admitted to early-round jitters in her post-tournament presser:
"The first two days I was nervous, like I said. I was‑‑ I barely made the cut. I was 1 better than the cut. But I know that the score‑‑ on this course it's like par is not bad. So everybody is going to make over pars in the weekend. And if you can stay even or like 1 or 2‑under, which I did, than [sic] I'm going to move up. I was very patient. I was trying to just play par."
Feng will chalk this one up to experience. Her 2012 season is turning out to be full of good performances thus far.
The difficulty of winning a major championship—or really any golf tournament for that matter—is to play consistently well for four rounds. You need a survival-of-the-fittest mentality.
In her first-ever U.S. Open performance, 23-year-old Ilhee Lee, like many of her fellow competitors, could not avoid one bad round of golf en route to an otherwise outstanding championship effort.
After opening rounds of 72 and 71, Lee's third-round 77 all but eliminated her from contention. However, a final-round two-under-par 70 not only put her name back on the leaderboard and earned her an impressive T-4 finish, but it also gave her plenty of experience to use toward her obviously very bright future.
Around the same time Na Yeon Choi had dropped three shots to the rest of the field and opened the door for those players around par to get back into the championship, Sandra Gal made a triple bogey of her own and immediately fell out of contention.
As it turned out, Gal had no shot to win because Choi bounced back with three birdies, but there was roughly $130,000 on the line if she could somehow get into second place.
It wasn't to be, as Gal recorded a six on the par-three 13th, her only significant blemish on an otherwise solid final-round scorecard.
Gal finished alone in third place with a two-over-par 74 and notched her career best and first top-10 finish in a major championship.
Amy Yang has to feel a little bit unlucky.
In a dominant performance of her own, Yang had to settle for a second-place finish that was four shots ahead of the rest of the competition. It was familiar territory for Yang—her fifth top-five and seventh top-10 finish in a major championship.
In many ways, it was Yang's week—she played that well. But, in the most important way—when you're in the business of recording either a win or a loss after a tournament—it wasn't her time.
Still, for a player who put together four consistent rounds—73, 72, 69 and 71—she has to be extremely pleased with her efforts.
Amy Yang's time will come. At just 22 years old, she'll certainly have plenty more opportunities.
Na Yeon Choi's performance at the 2012 U.S. Women's Open was masterful.
With rounds of 71, 72, 65 and 73, Choi really only had competition from one other player in a field of 156 of the best female golfers in the world.
As the Rolex Rankings' No. 5 player in the world, Choi was rarely off the mark from tee to green, missing only 10 fairways and 15 greens in regulation all week.
Then there was her putting. Choi had 120 putts all week, including 26 one-putts.
When things got tough, which they rarely did, she was there with outstanding play from deep rough and awkward lies.
And when her lead melted from six shots to a mere two with a triple-bogey eight on the 10th hole, she shook it off and made three more birdies on the way in, including back-to-back efforts on Nos. 15 and 16 to seal the victory.
Na Yeon Choi passed the test on winning a U.S. Open. She endured both mental and physical challenges and beat an incredibly difficult golf course—not to mention all of her aforementioned opponents.