It was the shot that rang around Royal Canberra. With a perfectly-executed lob wedge shot out of thick grass and into the cup at the 14th hole, South Korea`s Jiyai Shin seized control of the ISPS Handa Women`s Australian Open. She would not release her grip on the title that she had come close to winning several times before.
Shin, the 24-year-old comparative veteran, had stood on the 14th tee tied with New Zealand`s 15-year-old prodigy, Lydia Ko, at 16-under par, having chided the younger player on Saturday: \"I told her, `you made me feel too old to play`.``
The popular Korean had produced one of her worst shots of the final day at that long, straight 14th hole, a poor iron shot from the middle of the fairway to thick rough, 20 metres left of the green, and short-sided. But what followed was the game-winner, a peerless lob wedge that landed like a butterfly on the fringe of the green, trickled down the putting surface, hit the flag and dropped in for birdie.
It was perfection for Shin and for Ko, it was a metaphorical dagger in the heart. She took bogey after finding a fairway trap, making it a two-shot swing, and when Shin hit two perfect shots to the par-five 15th green, setting up a birdie with two putts, it was effectively over. There would be no fairytale for the teenager, winner of the New Zealand Open last week. She would fade to finish third, but won the medal for leading amateur.
Shin won her first Australian Open title by two shots when she took regulation par at the last, finishing at 18-under par after carding a one-under-par 72 today. The world No 8 is back as a force after struggling through part of last year with a hand injury, although she needed to bring her best to hold off a barnstorming world No. 1 Yani Tseng, who carded the low round of the day, a 66. Tseng finished outright second, two shots back, and was still in the contest when she hit a short iron to tap-in distance at the par-three 17th.
Playing in the fourth-last group, Tseng knew she was just a shot back from Shin with a chance of an eagle at the par-five 18th, reachable in two shots. She delivered the first part of the equation by striping her drive down the fairway, but tugged her second into trees left of the green, and could only make par.
Shin had been solid all day, as is her wont. The Korean birdied the first hole and as Ko bordered on meltdown with a pulled tee shot and a punched second that rebounded from a tree and ended up behind her. After a nervous Ko went double bogey-bogey at the opening two holes Shin led by four, but the younger player gathered her faculties and Shin`s bogey from the front bunker at the 12th opened the door again.
The key was the 14th and that amazing flop shot with a 60 degree wedge, one to make Phil Mickelson proud. Shin`s ball had stopped close to a sponsor sign and she was entitled to relief; she chose not to, because the lie was so good. \"When it went in, I was surprised,`` she said. \"I`m pretty sure that`s golf! I had 30 to 40 centimetres of room (to land the ball).``
She was happy to call it one of the best shots of her career.
It was Shin`s tournament to win or lose by the time Tseng tapped in at the last and the Korean had three holes to complete. Despite receiving a time warning so that she needed to run after teeing off several times, she made consecutive pars, never in particular trouble, to secure her 11th LPGA win. Royal Canberra`s tight driving lines suited her lasered shots. \"When I came here, I said `this is my course`. I hope they keep playing this course.``
Ko was remarkable again, finding the will to recover from her terrible start. The Kiwi teenager admitted nerves might have played a part in her opening tee shot, although she was not sure. \"I`m not sure where that came from,`` she said.
She will be in Thailand next week playing another tournament, and to be sure, she will be in the running again soon, and often. \"I had a few struggles with my driver, but as I said `I can`t play good every single round`,`` she said afterward.
Thousands of people filled the natural amphitheater around the 18th green at the end of a highly successful Open in the national capital. Shin`s victory was popular; she has visited at least 10 times since she was a 15-year-old and confesses to a love of the country. \"I know pies and kangaroos!``
The Open is expected to return to the Melbourne sandbelt, probably to Victoria Golf Club, next year.