Five days. Seven rounds. More than 120 holes. One winner.
With a 3-foot putt on No. 17, American Ally Ewing won the inaugural Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play Hosted by Shadow Creek, taking a 2-and-1 victory over Germany’s Sophia Popov for her second career LPGA Tour title. Ewing and Popov played through blazing hot conditions, with temperatures all week in the upper 90s, wowing the small gallery of invited family and guests with a display of world-class golf on a similarly world-class layout at Shadow Creek.
“It was exhausting. I think I was limping in on the finish line really. Fatigue was definitely a factor. Four rounds of stroke play, 18, 18, 18, 18 is a grueling week, especially if you're in contention,” said Ewing, who celebrated her first wedding anniversary today with husband Charlie Ewing, who was in the gallery. “This week was unlike any other. I'm definitely going to have to tape up the feet I think for another week, but well worth it.”
In the battle of two likely Solheim Cup players, Ewing struck first, winning the second hole at par to go 1 up. She converted birdie at No. 6 to go 2 up, a lead she carried through the 10th hole. At No. 11, Popov won with a par, giving Ewing a 1-up lead that she held through No. 13.
At No. 14, the momentum swung in Ewing’s favor. From the front of the green, Ewing drained a 62-foot birdie putt and when Popov’s attempt slid by to the right, Ewing regained her 2-up lead.
“Made a few in the 40, 45-foot range but 60-footers you don't see go in very often,” said Ewing. “Yeah, it was a blessing at the right time.”
Popov was sitting far closer to the hole than Ewing, saying that she felt she had the advantage on the hole. When that putt fell, Popov know that the moment was going to fuel Ewing’s fire.
“I think if it hadn't hit the hole, could have been maybe 5, 6 feet by and I think the scenario is totally different,” said Popov, who had her parents, brother, sister-in-law and three nieces in the gallery, as well as best friend and fellow LPGA Tour Member Anne van Dam. “But she made that putt, and I think for me personally, it was probably, especially after playing that many holes, I think it was just a real momentum killer, a little bit of a dagger in the heart.”
Popov’s tee shot at No. 15 found a hazard to the left, giving her an unplayable lie. Ewing then sent her second shot into the hazard to the right and with one foot in the water, sent her ball into the opposite rough before chipping out to 4 feet. Popov scrambled for bogey, with her 5-foot putt punctuated by a fist bump, but Ewing matched Popov’s bogey to maintain the 2-up advantage.
Ewing’s tee shot at the par-3 17th went in the water, leaving the door wide open for Popov. But Popov’s tee shot plugged in the left greenside bunker, and she blasted out clear across the green into the rear rough. With Ewing on the green for double-bogey, Popov put too much into her chip, hitting the green just shy of the hole but rolling 15 feet past. She failed to convert the comebacker, and Ewing knocked in a nervy 3-footer to take her second LPGA Tour title on her 122nd hole of the championship.
"It's a very difficult green to hit, especially as firm as it is. Maybe under a different circumstances where the green was a little bit softer it might have led to maybe some more favorable bounces," said Ewing. "But, yeah, I didn't foresee a 5 getting it done, but it did, and it's just a tough hole. That's what it is. Like you said, it's match play. I still had to make a 3- or 4-footer to get it done, and rolled it in."
ALLY AND CHARLIE EWING OFF TO AMAZING WINNER’S EXPERIENCE
Following her victory at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play Hosted by Shadow Creek, Ally Ewing and her husband Charlie were in for the experience of a lifetime courtesy of title sponsor Bank of Hope and host venue MGM Resorts. The husband-and-wife duo, celebrating their first anniversary today, were whisked away to the Bellagio in a Rolls Royce. Once there, they will watch the famed Bellagio fountain show from a boat on the water, with the fountain display choreographed to a song of her choosing. After dinner at Prime Steakhouse and a night in a private suite, they’ll be joined on Monday by caddie Dan Chapman for a flight on the MGM corporate jet to San Francisco for the 76th U.S. Women’s Open.
“They've run the golf tournament really, really well, and I think they've set a pretty high standard for just the special treatment that we have gotten this week,” said Ewing. “It is definitely a unique event, and I think players are going to be super excited to come back with how we've been treated.”