Yani Tseng captures Women's British Open title for a record fifth major

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Yani Tseng made golf history by winning the 2011 Ricoh Women's British Open championship at the legendary Scottish Carnoustie Golf Links on Sunday. At the age of 22 years and 6 months she is the youngest professional golfer of either gender to earn five major titles. Her final round of 69 allowed her to overcome a two shot deficit to third round leader Caroline Masson of Germany and finish with a four shot cushion over runner-up Brittany Lang of USA.

The Ricoh Women's British Open is one of four designated major championships on the LPGA Tour and the final such tournament on the 2011 schedule.

First round

Defending champion Yani Tseng
Image: Wojciech Migda (Wikimedia Commons).

Korean Meena Lee led the first round, played on Thursday, July 28, with a score of 65. The 29-year-old Lee, a two time winner on the LPGA Tour, hit seven birdies and no bogeys despite playing in the worst weather of the day. Constant rain did not seem to disrupt her game as other players struggled.

She started her round by making a birdie at the very first hole. She followed with birdies on all three par five holes and on the par four seventh, ninth, and short 11th holes. On the last hole she got a lucky break when her badly-hit approach shot fell short, and jumped across the Barry Burn to stop three feet from the hole; she missed her birdie chance.

Two shots behind Lee was 2009 Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Brittany Lincicome of the US. The American started her round much earlier than the eventual leader and took advantage of more favorable weather conditions. She was at even par after 11 holes with two birdies and two bogeys but things turned for the better and she made two consecutive birdies followed by an eagle on the 14th hole. Lincicome hit another on the 17th hole to seal her final score.

Another shot behind were four players - 2000 champion Sophie Gustafson of Sweden, Germany's Caroline Massson, American Angela Stanford, and Amy Yang of South Korea. Defending champion and World Ranked Number 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan was three shots back at one-under-par.

Second round

Caroline Masson on the 13th green
Masson acknowledges the crowd after a birdie at the 13th
Image: Wojciech Migda (Wikimedia Commons).
Caroline Masson on the 16th hole
Masson standing over the 16th green
Image: Wojciech Migda (Wikimedia Commons).

Second round headlines belonged to the 22-year-old Caroline Masson, ranked 141st in the world. The native of Germany, who turned professional at the end of 2009 and plays on the Ladies European Tour, shot a bogey-free round of 65 to lead the championship after two rounds. Her total score of 11-under-par (133) was the lowest halfway result in the event's history.

Masson, who was tied for third after the first round, took advantage of the benign sunny conditions while playing in the last group on Friday. She went out in 32 making birdies at the 3rd, 6th, 7th, and 9th holes. On the par three 13th hole she added another birdie. On the 15th she went one shot better and almost eagled the par five 17th after hitting the green in two. During the post-round press conference she stated that one of the keys to her good score was work on a low ball flight, suitable for links courses. Masson's swing coach is Günter Kessler, who also works with her fellow countryman golfer Martin Kaymer.

One shot behind Masson were two Korean players, overnight leader Meena Lee and Inbee Park. Lee, playing in a group preceding Masson's, could not repeat her Thursday performance and hit just five birdies and two bogeys for a round of 69.

Park, on her way to a second place finish, shot the day's best round of 64, matched only by her compatriot and Hall-of-Famer, 2001 Women's British Open champion Se Ri Pak who was tied for third place.

Defending champion Yani Tseng made a jump up the leaderboard after posting a round of six-under. Tseng's total score of 137 gave her a 7th place position, four shots behind the leader.

Of the 144 players who started the tournament, 68 made the cut which was set at +1. Notables not playing the weekend included Japan's Ai Miyazato and England's Laura Davies.

Third round

Masson on the 6th hole
Image: Wojciech Migda (Wikimedia Commons).
  I was actually waiting for that moment, not especially at the British Open, but just to have it all come together and really play well and maybe win a tournament. It's just unbelievable that it's happening this week.  

—Masson's comment on her performance

On Saturday Masson continued to shine over the Carnoustie course. Her first hole, however, put a question mark on whether she would hold on to the leader's position. Her tee shot found the right rough and although she hit the green with her second, she three-putted for a bogey five. She quickly bounced back with a birdie on the second hole as she placed her approach shot within two metres from the pin. She followed with two consecutive birdies on the 5th and 6th holes, added another on the short 11th, and then birdied two remaining par fives 14th and 17th. She closed with a bogey on the last as her approach shot found the front right greenside bunker and she could not get up-and-down from there.

Her playing partner, Inbee Park, struggled to repeat her Round 2 score and shot 73 to drop into a shared third position.

The best round of the day belonged to the defending champion Yani Tseng as she shot 6-under 66 to climb into second place, two shots behind Masson. She carded five birdies, a solitary bogey on the 7th, and holed a 23-yard eagle putt on the 14th.

The highest placed British player and a local favorite was the 2009 champion from Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club, Catriona Matthew. Her bogey-free round of 68 tied her for third.

Final round

Masson's struggle on the green
Image: Wojciech Migda (Wikimedia Commons).
  It's unbelievable, I couldn't even imagine 22 years old, fifth major, and how many events has she won other than majors. She's so mentally strong and she's so aggressive and confident. She's just got it all. It's pretty cool to watch.  

—Lang on Tseng's fifth major victory.

The start to the final round was the opposite of what followed later in the day. Both Masson and Tseng found the green with their second shots, but it was the Rolex Ranking number one, Tseng, who made the first mistake, three-putting for a bogey. Then the fortune reversed as the German struggled with her shots and the putter while Tseng made birdies.

Masson's three-shot advantage after the first melted after another two holes – she three-putted the 2nd and did not get up-and-down after missing the green on the 3rd, while Tseng made a birdie on the third hole. Tseng jumped into the lead after a birdie on the par five 6th, where her pitch onto the green left her with an easy putt. Masson then went on to bogey the 7th.

Their scores did not change until the German bogeyed the 10th and 11th, and double-bogeyed the 12th, which essentially dropped her out of contention.

Tseng with the trophy
Image: Wojciech Migda (Wikimedia Commons).

Tseng, meanwhile, birdied the 11th to increase her lead over the rest of the field. Two dropped shots on the 12th and 13th, however, closed the gap to just two shots over the chasing Catriona Matthew, who was 11-under after nine holes. From then, there were no more mistakes for the leader as she birdied par fives 14th and 17th, and closed with a birdie at the 18th for a round of 16-under.

For Tseng it was the second season in a row in which she has won two major championship titles; in June she won the LPGA Championship title.

Catriona Matthew, despite being second at some point during the Sunday's round finished with a double bogey at the last. A total score of nine-under gave her a fifth place finish alongside Caroline Masson, who shot 78, including birdies at the last two holes.

Runner-up place, four shots behind Tseng, was American Brittany Lang who shot a final round of 67.

Best round of the day, 8-under 64, belonged to another native of the US, Katie Futcher. She made just a single birdie on the first nine, but then with five birdies and an eagle on the 14th, scored 29 going home, the lowest nine-hole result on LPGA Tour this season.

Of the two amateurs who made it to the weekend, American Danielle Kang earned the honours of the best amateur player and received the Smyth Salver trophy given to the lowest-scoring non-professional.

Tseng on the 3rd green
Tseng acknowledges the crowd after a birdie at the 3rd
Image: Wojciech Migda (Wikimedia Commons).
Masson putting on the 4th green
Masson putting for a par on the 4th
Image: Wojciech Migda (Wikimedia Commons).
Tseng's approach on the 6th
Tseng's approach shot to the 6th green
Image: Wojciech Migda (Wikimedia Commons).
Masson in the water hazard on the 12th
Masson finding trouble off the tee on the 12th
Image: Wojciech Migda (Wikimedia Commons).
Tseng's victorious putt
Tseng celebrating victorious putt
Image: Wojciech Migda (Wikimedia Commons).
Masson on the 4th hole
Masson hits onto the 4th green
Image: Wojciech Migda (Wikimedia Commons).
Tseng's approach to the 18th
Tseng's approach shot to the 18th green
Image: Wojciech Migda (Wikimedia Commons).
Tseng with the Women's British trophy
Tseng posing with the trophy
Image: Wojciech Migda (Wikimedia Commons).
Tseng with the Women's British trophy
Tseng kissing the trophy
Image: Wojciech Migda (Wikimedia Commons).