Sometimes it’s the knowing, the gremlins that run rampant in the mind when your name is near the leaderboard and the moment gets too big. That likely happened to several players at Winged Foot in the U.S. Open, 2,500 miles from Columbia Edgewater Country Club and the Cambia Portland Classic.
But other times, it’s not knowing, the blissful ignorance of where you stand and what’s going on around you that bites you in the end.
Georgia Hall was clearly rattled, not after making a bogey on the final hole at the Cambia Portland Classic to shoot 68 and finish the week at 12-under, but after learning that she came into the final hole with a one-shot lead. Hall blinked more than once when she was told that the bogey meant she had to go into a playoff with Ashleigh Buhai, one that Hall would win with a par on the second extra hole. But at the end of regulation, she didn’t know.
Because it’s 2020 and nothing is normal, there were no leaderboards. Players are allowed to check their phones, but as Karen Stupples, who was on the ground for Golf Channel, said, “As a player, it doesn’t seem right (pulling out your phone). It’s not part of your routine.”
Birdies seemed to be part of Hall’s routine on Sunday. After a bogey at No. 3, she reeled off three birdies starting at No. 5, then finished the front nine with a couple of pars before doing it again, making three birdies in a row at 10, 11, and 12. That moved Hall into a share of the lead with defending champion Hannah Green. But Green fell away with four bogeys in the last six holes, including three in a row to finish the tournament. Meanwhile, Hall reeled off one par after another before reaching the 18th, where, from the fairway with an 8-iron in hand, she flew the ball well over the green and into a back bunker. Her bunker shot went long, leaving her an uphill 10-footer that stayed on the left side of the hole.
Normally, she would have known where that left her. As she put it, “(Scoreboards) are normally in your face.”
“I actually thought one of the players from the group behind, the leading group (of Green, second-round leader and fellow Englishwoman Mel Reid, and Amy Yang), maybe was ahead of me and I was second,” Hall said. “But then when I found out that I made bogey so therefore I have to get in a playoff, I was a little bit upset at that.
“I'm more just like an average board watcher. I think sometimes it's good to know; sometimes it isn't. In this instance I'm guessing I was leading in the last four or five holes, so I'm quite happy I didn't look.”
Even if you don’t look at leaderboards, fans give players a sense of where they stand. There is a must-make buzz that players recognize. Certainly, Hall knows it. A veteran of two Solheim Cups, where she has a 6-3-0 record, Hall won her major championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes amidst constant cries of “Come on, Georgia!”
This time it was Georgia who cried, emotions overwhelming her after Buhai missed a par putt on No. 1, the second playoff hole, to give Hall her second career LPGA Tour victory.
“I was quite nervous the last six or seven holes, so it was a buildup of emotions,” she said. “And then bogeying the last and getting in a playoff, it was a buildup and then just really happy tears at the end.
“I think that (after) I won the British, I just wanted to win again really badly, especially in America. After a couple of years, obviously, I'd never won in America. I find it easier maybe to win in Europe or Great Britain. But I always knew it would be harder (the longer I went without a victory) so for me to win, it's a relief that I've won in America. I can bring that confidence to the next event.”
She was also thrilled to have friends by her side this time around. Even without a gallery, players and volunteers streamed out to watch.
“There were quite a few people watching the playoff, which was great,” Hall said. “Some of my friends and other players came to watch me, so I definitely had that support. I knew that my family at home were cheering me on and watching.
“It meant so much to me, because when I won the AIG Women's Open a lot of (other players) weren't there because they were traveling to the next tournament. So, to have my main friends stay to watch me and pour all that stuff on me, it really does mean a lot. I'm really grateful to them.”
Hall will spend next week in Arizona where she hopes to take some time to celebrate.
“When I won the British, I didn't really take it all in and enjoy it properly,” Hall said. “I mean, it's hard with COVID, so I'll just see what we'll do. But I'm definitely going to enjoy it.”