Thanks to a magical shot at the final hole, Mo Martin was changed from a little-known American golfer into a major champion at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale yesterday.
In horribly windy conditions, Little Mo’s deadly accuracy proved to be the key to an unlikely victory, and the finest shot of the lot came at the 472-yard par five 18th.
Armed with a three wood, she produced a terrific blow that hit the pin and spun six feet away. The world No 99 from Pasadena in California holed the putt for an eagle three, posted a round of 72 and her one under par 287 total was good enough for a one-shot victory over China’s Shanshan Feng and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen.
A three-time winner on the US Futures Tour, Martin did not even join the full LPGA Tour until she was a 29-years-old in 2012. Her best result to date was third in last year’s Kia Classic. Her winner’s cheque of £277,887 has almost doubled her career earnings.
Martin had shown her form with two opening 69s and she led by three shots at halfway. But a 77 on Saturday did little to suggest she would be coming to Turnberry next year as the defending champion.
As it was, she went into the final day three behind the leader, four-time major winner, South Korea’s Inbee Park, and was out an hour before the leading pair teed off.
Even when she finished, it seemed odds-on that the best she could hope for was a play-off. But no one could match her brilliant finish.
“This is unbelievable, absolutely amazing, I still need to be pinched to make sure it’s true,” said the stunned new champion, who had spent the final 30 minutes of play on the practice range. Once her win was assured, she was then doused in champagne by her fellow-players.
It really was a fairytale for the player whose grandfather, Lincoln Martin, was her inspiration. He followed her to tournament right up until his death at the age of 102 in March.
“I fell in love with Royal Birkdale from the first time I saw it,” continued the player who is now set to jump into the world’s top 30. “I couldn’t have done it without so many people, including my caddie, Kyle Morrison. We plotted our way round here so well. My coach, Ian Triggs, has also helped me so much.”
One ahead of the field at the start of the final round, Park, who won the 2007 US Women’s Open, the first three majors last season and spent over a year as the world No 1, was two in front by the time she reached the turn in level par 36.
But a double-bogey at the tenth halted her march to a possible fifth major and another dropped shot at the 11th caused further grief and she fell behind Feng.
It then looked as though it would be a battle between the two Asians before Martin produced her stunning eagle at the last to move one clear.
Feng, the 2012 LPGA Champion, came to the 18th needing a birdie to tie but hit her second into a bunker and failed to get up and down. She shot 75.
Park was in the same situation but drove into deep rough and ran up a six to shoot 77 had to settle for a fourth place on one over par. Pettersen birdied the final two holes to earn a share of second with Feng on level par after a 75.
Dame Laura Davies, the oldest player in the field at 50, had a great final round 73 and was the leading British player in a tie for ninth on four over par, one ahead of 18-year-old Charley Hull (78).
Stacy Lewis, the American defending champion, shot 77 in the final round and was tied for 12th on five over par.
Vikki Laing was the sole Scot to make the cut and she could certainly claim the shot of the Championship with the five-wood shot she holed late on Friday for an albatross two at the long 17th.
The player ranked No 16 on the Ladies’ European Tour Order of Merit finished the tournament with a birdie at the 72nd hole but a closing round of 80 saw her have to settle for a share of 62nd place.
“There was a lot of very good stuff over the four days but I was too up and down,” she reflected. “The rough was very, very high and it made the course super difficult. You had to hit it straight.
The blight on her scorecard on day four was a quadruple bogey seven at the par 3 12th, the result of a horrid lie in a bunker. “But, overall, I enjoyed the week,” said the Musselburgh 33-year-old, who earned £3,235 and heads for a tournament in Germany this week. “You can’t but enjoy the British Open.”
American Emma Talley won the Smyth Salver for the top amateur. The Kentucky 20-year-old closed with a great 73 for six over par and three shots better than her British rival, Georgia Hall, who shot a final round 74.
Hall, 18, was join top amateur at St Andrews last year and is likely to turn professional in the near future.