It was everything you’d dream about from a golf tournament. An upstart winner, a defending champion denied, an all-day battle, two extra holes, a dramatic finish.
Yes, it’s possible the best finish in golf on PGA Championship Sunday will have unfolded nearly 3,000 miles from the clubhouse at TPC Harding Park.
It’s possible the largely empty fairways of Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., were the site of Sunday’s most heroic battle. Zhang and Ruffels traded blows for 36 consecutive holes, neither player leading by more than two holes at any point, only to reach a stalemate. After 36 holes, the two players needed more golf to declare a winner.
Ruffels, the defending champion and USC star, was seeking to be the first player to claim back-to-back U.S. Women’s Amateurs since Danielle Kang in 2011. But Zhang, a 17-year-old up-and-comer bound for Stanford this fall, played the foil.
As the two approached the green on the second extra hole, it seemed as though Zhang had squandered her chances. Zhang missed a 12-footer on the 37th hole to win the match and faced a two-putt on the 38th to stay in it. After tapping in for par, Zhang watched as Ruffels sized up a six-footer for par to extend the match. With the way they’d played all afternoon, a make was but a foregone conclusion — until it wasn’t.
Ruffels sent her putt rolling toward the hole. It looked good, but swung around the edge of the cup before skittering back toward her. She’d missed the putt, Zhang had won the match, and it couldn’t have happened more excruciatingly. Check it out for yourself below.
“You can’t take any putt for granted out here,” Ruffels said afterward. “These greens are crazy fast, and that did have a little break to it. I was playing it outside of the hole. I actually hit it on my line, but it was heartbreaking to see it horseshoe out.”
The match was the second-longest in U.S. Women’s Am history. The longest match came in 1966, when JoAnne Gunderson beat Marlene Stewart Streit in 41 holes.