Extreme wind conditions made the final round at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic Presented by CTBC a Sunday of survival and it was Haru Nomura who emerged as the champion. Nomura shot a 1-over, 73 to claim her second career victory and second this season. Lee-Anne Pace (74) finished in solo second and four-shots back. Nomura had five birdies and six bogeys in her round of 73 and was the highest final round by a winner since Inbee Park shot 75 at the 2013 Wegmans LPGA Classic.
For much of the afternoon, Lake Merced sustained steady 30-40 mph wind gusts making the already difficult track an intense mental and physical test. Pace said the combination of low temperatures and wind made it one of the toughest rounds she could remember.
“Personally, insane,” said Pace. “No, look, it was freezing. It was very, very gusty. A lot of the shots you stood over and it was just really, really difficult to commit to the lines, everything. It was a very tough day out there.”
Nomura started the day with a three-shot lead and after her second birdie of the day on the par 5 sixth hole, extended the lead to five shots over Gerina Piller. But a tough stretch in the middle of her round made things more interesting for the sixth-year LPGA member from Japan. She bogeyed four out of five holes from Nos. 7-11 and cut the lead to just one shot. The 23-year old said her rough patch didn’t waver her confidence one bit.
“No. I’m never nervous,” said Nomura. “This weather very cold, so sometimes bogey is okay.”
A poor tee shot by Piller on the 11th hole left her in the fescue on the left side of the fairway. After punching out just a few feet, she failed to convert her bogey putt and dropped to 5-under and three shots back.
Na Yeon Choi looked like she would contest Nomura down the stretch with birdies on 11 and 14 to cut the lead to one but dropped off with a bogey on No. 15 and double bogey on the 16th.
South Africa’s Lee-Anne was the surprise late in the day and made a surge with three birdies on the back nine and got within three shots. Pace, who was in the final group with Nomura, started the final round with five consecutive bogeys in her first five holes. Asked what she said to herself at that point, Pace joked that she flat out questioned herself.
“What are you doing?” Pace said. “No, you know, my caddie came to me again, and he said to me, everyone is going down, be patient. I know we made some mistakes, but come on, let’s get it back to even par, and that was our goal, and we got it back to 2-over, so nearly reached the goal and got a good result in the end.”
Nomura birdied the 17th hole to extend her lead to four shots and said that coming into this week she had a really good feeling about performing well at Lake Merced.
“You guys will find this strange, but I like windy situations,” Nomura said through an interpreter. “I like playing in the wind. I like tough situations, so when I spoke to the caddie, even before the championship last week in Hawaii, I told him, I’m going to come here and win this tournament because I really like this course. I enjoy this course. I’m glad that I was able to deliver on what I told my caddie.”
Gerina Piller shot a 1-over 73 in the final round on Sunday to tie for third at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic Presented by CTBC. The result was her best finish to date this season and her fourth top-10 finish of 2016.
Perhaps an even more special part of the week was that her husband, PGA Tour player Martin Piller, was in the hunt down the stretch at the Valero Texas Open and finished in a tie for fourth place. Gerina was able to watch Martin before she teed off and received periodic updates throughout her round.
“I got a few updates,” said Piller. “One of my cousins was watching so she was kind of giving me an update of what was going on. It’s actually kind of cool because it kind of took my mind off of my game and what I had to do today, and just because it’s so windy. I was kind of more worried about him than I was my own game.”
“Just standing still. I said, hey, if I was half my weight, I’d probably already be flying away like a balloon.”-Lydia Ko on the toughest part about playing in the windy conditions on Sunday at Lake Merced
“I love playing blackjack, so that’s what I plan to do. When I get there, I’m just going to drop off my luggage and go.”-Haru Nomura on how she plans to celebrate in Vegas next week
NUMBERS TO KNOW
6 – Number of top-10 finishes for Lydia Ko in 2016
2 –Haru Nomura becomes the first Japanese player to win twice in one year on the LPGA Tour since Ai Miyazato did so in 2012
3 – Haru Nomura became the third player to win multiple events in 2016, joining Lydia Ko (Kia Classic, ANA Inspiration) and Ha Na Jang (COATES Golf Championship, HSBC Women’s Champions). Nomura’s first win of the year came at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open in February.
9 - Brooke Henderson extended her streak of consecutive top-10 finishes to nine (including a non-LPGA event) this week with a T6 finish.
40 – So Yeon Ryu now has 40 starts between her last win (August 21, 2014 – Canadian Pacific Women’s Open) after her 5th place finish this week at Swinging Skirts.
- Michelle Wie withdrew after 15 holes in the final round of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic citing neck spasms.
- With her T3 finish today, Gerina Piller is projected to move to 18th in the Rolex Rankings, dropping Brittany Lincicome (projected to fall to No. 22) off Team USA and Gerina Piller on to the four player team in the 2016 UL International Crown.