UNLIKE the men’s equivalent a fortnight earlier, the Ladies Scottish Open didn’t get the star name it wanted as a winner. As world No 7 Suzann Pettersen was the first to admit, though, after losing out in the Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event at Dundonald Links, she could have no complaints. No-one could, in fact.
As final rounds go, a six-under-par 66 from Australian Rebecca Artis was worthy of winning any tournament. Giving her victory by two shots with a six-under 210 total, it was the best round of the week. Even more impressive, it was chiselled out in the rain, as well as a strengthening wind. “She [Artis] definitely deserved to win after an effort like that,” admitted Pettersen, the overnight leader, after the Norwegian had to settle for second spot, two shots behind after a closing 74.
Artis, a 36-year-old from Coonabarabran in New South Wales, came from six shots behind at the start of play to record this success, her second on the Ladies European Tour. The first one – in the Helsingborg Open two years ago – was recorded in similar circumstances. Three off the lead with a round to go then, she closed with a 69 to come out on top.
“I tend to play well in tough conditions,” said Artis after picking up a cheque for £53,000 – the event’s biggest prize after the pot was doubled as part of its move to a new slot immediately before the Ricoh Women’s British Open, starting at Turnberry on Thursday. “My ball-striking is normally the most solid part of my game and that was certainly the case today. When you come from behind, you have to go out and play aggressive golf and make birdies and that’s what I did.”
What made her closing effort even more remarkable was that it included a double-bogey 5 at the fourth, where she missed the green with a 5-iron, hit a poor chip then three-putted. “That rocked me a bit,” she admitted, “but birdies at the fifth and sixth got me back on track.” On in two at the par-5 fifth, she then hit 9-iron to 15 feet at the next.
Even then, Artis looked as though she was playing for second at best. One-over for the day, Pettersen led by three shots from playing partner Holly Clyburn with ten holes to play. Bogeys at the tenth and 12th, however, came just as Artis was really stepping up her challenge on the back nine. She reeled off three birdies in a row from the 12th then chipped in from 65 feet for another one at the 16th.
That hole proved pivotal in the final reckoning. Pettersen bogeyed it to fall behind. After being unable to convert a decent birdie chance at the 17th, the Solheim Cup player then put her second into the burn at the last. “I had to give it a go but miscalculated the wind,” said the runner-up of her attempt to cut a hybrid to the hole from 197 yards.
The win, which came 11 months after she closed with a 66 to finish third in the same event at Archerfield Links, didn’t surprise Artis. “I’ve been playing some really consistent golf,” she said. “I played well in the European Masters recently but didn’t quite get it done. To have done that today chasing down both Suzann Pettersen and Lydia Ko is pretty awesome, really.” Revealing that Geoff, her husband and full-time caddie, had celebrated his birthday on Saturday, Artis added: “He was complaining that I hadn’t got him a present, but I think this is a pretty good one.”
While “disappointed not to win”, Pettersen was delighted to get a links test under her belt ahead of this week’s major further down the Ayrshire coast. “My game is in great shape and playing well here will set me up nicely for Turnberry,” she said.
The same applied to Ko, the world No 2 as she reflected on her first appearance on Scottish soil as a professional. “Overall, this has been good preparation for the British Open,” said the New Zealand 18-year-old after closing with a 74 to finish joint-fourth – a shot behind Clyburn, who also signed off with a two-over-par effort. “It’s been great to get the opportunity to get more experience playing a links-style course,” added Ko.
First and foremost, that was the whole point of moving this tournament to its new prime slot. Artis may have come out on top in the end – and deserved to as well – but, at the same time. both Pettersen and Ko will be moving on to Turnberry feeling better prepared than many of the American big guns for this week’s title fight.
Having failed to break par in her three rounds here, where she finished joint-14th on four-over, Scottish No 1 Catriona Matthew will be heading into the Btitish Open hoping she has saved her birdies for this week.