From a shank to water balls, chaos helped decide Chevron Championship
THE WOODLANDS, Texas — The final round of the Chevron Championship did not have your typical Sunday roars. With blustery conditions blowing across a difficult Carlton Woods layout, scoring opportunities were scarce. It didn’t take long to know that the day would be a war of attrition.
In the end, Lilia Vu was the last woman standing. On a day when just three players could muster a score lower than 70, her 68 helped her erase a four-shot deficit to claim her first major title. On her way to that victory, though, there were plenty of pivotal moments. Below, we outline the most chaotic points of the day that helped her secure the title.
A Lim Kim’s shank
A Lim Kim is no stranger to success in the Lone Star State. Just three years ago, Kim mounted an epic final-round rally at nearby Champions Golf Club to win the U.S. Women’s Open for her first major title. On Sunday at Carlton Woods, it looked like she might complete a Texas two-step.
Kim carded three birdies on the outward nine during the final round to reach 10 under halfway through the day and looked to be in total control of her game. She stumbled a bit on the back nine with a couple bogeys, but came to the final hole with a chance to replicate her magic from a few years back. With an eagle, she could post the clubhouse lead.
After smashing a drive on the par-5 finisher, Kim was in prime position to reach the green in two. She consulted with her caddie for a few moments and opted for a long iron into the green. With one solid strike, she’d be in prime position to do something special.
That solid strike never came. Instead, Kim hit her worst shot of the day as she caught the hosel and shanked her ball down the right side of the fairway. A shank is never good, but a 72nd-hole hosel rocket is the worst of the worst.
Kim would settle for par and finished two shots out of the eventual playoff.
Atthaya Thitikul’s water ball
Playing alongside Kim, Atthaya Thitikul quietly put together one of the best rounds of the day. Through 17 holes, she was three under par and came to the 72nd hole hole at 10 under. With a birdie, she could match Yin’s 11-under total as the leader played the closing stretch of holes.
Right from the jump, Thitikul’s final hole looked like trouble. Her tee ball caught a pine-tree branch on the right side of the fairway and plopped down in the rough; going for the green in two was out of the question. She laid up to a comfortable wedge number in the fairway. But, like her playing partner, disaster was around the corner.
Opting for the aggressive line, Thitikul took dead aim at the tucked left pin and lofted her wedge right at the flagstick — but she made the one mistake she couldn’t afford. Her ball came up a couple yards short of the putting surface and rolled back into the water, drowning her chances for her first major title.
“I know I have a chance to make a birdie, and then I trying to make it happen,” Thitikul said afterward. “But just maybe some misunderstanding with the wind, the number that I played, and that’s it. I think I hit it pretty good, like not behind the ball. I hit it pretty solid, but it just went like that because maybe misunderstanding with the wind.”
All the more painful? Thitikul didn’t have to make birdie at the last. A par would have been good enough for 10 under and a spot in the eventual playoff. Instead, Thitikul ended with an ugly double-bogey 7, finishing two shots back.
When asked about the pressure of the moment, Thitikul said, “I think it’s a good thing for me. It’s nice to be under pressure. Everyone has to go through this when you’re going to go for the win or for the trophy.”
Angel Yin’s back-to-back bogeys
With three holes to play, it was Angel Yin’s tournament to lose. She sat at 11 under, and with her challengers faltering up ahead, all she needed were pars on the way in to nab an unlikely victory.
On the 16th hole, Yin found trouble off the tee when her drive settled in a fairway bunker. She could advance the ball only 50 or so yards down the fairway, but when she wedged it within seven feet on the ensuing shot, it looked as though she’d escape with par. But when she motored her par putt through the break and past the hole, she had to settle for bogey.
While Yin’s bogey on 16 was costly, her dropped shot at the 17th was even more painful.
Standing on the tee box, she pulled an 8-iron and readied to send her ball toward the green. But after a slight gust high in the trees, she backed off and switched to a 7-iron instead. Wrong club. Her ball sailed over the green and found the back bunker.
“Seventeen really just was like [a] bad club decision,” Yin said. “I just didn’t hit a good shot. It just kind of spoke a lot about today.”
Yin bounced back with a birdie on the last to force a playoff, but on the first extra hole, the par-5 18th struck again, with Yin dunking her approach into the water short of the green. When Vu coolly made birdie, the first LPGA major of the season had been decided.