SAN MARTIN – Four years after capturing her first win on the LPGA Tour, Brittany Lang is a winner once again.
The 30-year-old American captured her first major championship on Sunday at the U.S. Women’s Open, defeating Anna Nordqvist in a three-hole aggregate playoff for the win. Nordqvist’s tee shot at the second playoff hole, the par 4, 17th hole landed in a fairway bunker where she was deemed by the USGA to have grounded her club and assessed a two-stroke penalty.
"Well, I was in the fairway bunker there on 17. It was blowing 35, 40, and I had a 5-iron, downhill lie. Just focusing on hitting my shots, and apparently I touched the sand. It wasn't on purpose. And just one of those things. I have to deal with the consequences. Unfortunately it happened, but it's not the end of the world," Nordqvist told the media. "I wish USGA would have told me a little bit earlier than -- they approached me after I already hit my third shot into 18, then kind of ran up to Brittany to tell her that I got penalized. I don't know if it would have changed the outcome, but it certainly would have changed my aggressiveness into the 18th pin."
The pair was notified of the ruling in the fairway at the third playoff hole, the par 5, 18th hole where Lang went on to make par and Nordqvist a bogey.
Lang carded a final round one-under par, 71 to finish the championship at six-under par and in a share of the lead with Nordqvist, who carded the low round of the day with a five-under par, 67. Lang’s victory is the greatest 36-hole comeback since 1990, after trailing by seven strokes midway through the championship. She is just the second American to win on Tour in 2016 and third to capture the U.S. Women’s Open since 2010.
"Yeah, it's pretty special. I've always dreamed of winning the U.S. Open. I have so much respect for the USGA and for this tournament. And to see these players -- I actually said something to somebody in Arkansas, and I just feel like I have extremely underachieved as a golfer," Lang told the media. "I feel like I'm so capable of doing so much more than I've done. And this is just a little start to boost me."
The No.40 ranked player in the Rolex Rankings entered the final round two-strokes back of leader Lydia Ko after posting the low round on moving day with a 68 on Saturday to move into contention. She played Sunday’s final round in the penultimate group alongside fellow U.S. Solheim Cup teammate Angela Stanford and Amy Yang. Lang made her 12th appearance in the U.S. Women’s Open this week where she has finished in the top-10 in four of those starts, including a share of runner-up in her first appearance in 2005 as a 19-year-old amateur.
A critical birdie by Lang at the 16th hole broke her out of a tie with Anna Nordqvist, who carded the low round of the day on Sunday with a five-under par, 67 to take the lead in the clubhouse at six-under par. Nordqvist led the field this week in G.I.R. after becoming the first in the history of the championship to hit every green in regulation during the first round.
"I was hitting my irons beautiful all day. Hit tons of fairways. Made a couple of good putts coming in, bogey-free. And that's all you can ask for on a Sunday of a U.S. Open," Nordqvist said.
54-hole leader Lydia Ko was unable to convert the win for the second consecutive major, after also sleeping on the lead at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June. The world No.1 had an uncharacteristic final round that included a bogey at the par 3, 8th and double bogey at the par 5, 9th hole to drop out of the lead.
“I decided to hit a full driver on nine and pulled it. And it was pretty thick there. I think I should have judged the lie a little better and maybe played a little smarter and laid up short of the hazard. And then just lay up again and try and make up-and-down for par,” said Ko. “But I don't think it necessarily affected it. Maybe the few holes after because of my pull on nine kind of continued that way. But I don't think the bogey on eight affected me to hit not a great shot on the tee shot on nine.”
From there, Ko was unable to recover and after her group with Sung Hyun Park and Eun Hee Ji was put on the clock after the 11th hole, continued to stumble with bogeys on the 12th and 14th holes.
“We got on the clock on 11. But we fell behind a little bit during the middle of our front nine. But I kind of felt bad, because I almost felt like it was a little bit more of my fault, because we were looking for the ball,” said Ko. “I was trying to get numbers and lay ups. It is tough to be on the clock when it is so windy and when every shot really counts. But we fell out of position and that's the consequences with it.”
Ko finished with a three-over par, 75 to finish at four-under par in a share of third with Amy Yang, 36-hole leader Sung Hyun Park, Eun Hee Ji.