Of course, she’s disappointed. After finishing the week at 16-under par and tied for the lead at the end of regulation, 27-year-old Emma Talley failed to make par on the second playoff hole, the par-5 18th, which gave Pajaree Anannarukarn a free run at a 9-foot putt to win. Anannarukarn drained the putt, leaving Talley alone in as runner-up, her best finish in four years on the LPGA Tour.
“That stupid bunker,” Talley said of the fairway bunker right of the 18th fairway, which she found both times during the playoff. “Now, looking back, you say obviously I wish I would have hit the ball straight or just hit less club. I did it in the practice round. I hit it in that bunker in the practice round. But the other two days I didn't so I didn't really think anything about it.”
From the bunker the second time through, Talley hit too much club into the left rough, leaving her a bad lie and an awkward angle. Just a few minutes before, in regulation, she had watched Jennifer Kupcho, who was also 16-under at the time, hit a wedge from a similar spot that squirted left and found the water. Kupcho made bogey on the final hole and missed the playoff by a shot. On the second extra hole, Talley had a wedge squirt out as well, only to the right toward the gallery. That left her with a delicate downhill fourth shot from the rough, which she left short. Two putts later, Talley walked away with a bogey six and the closest call to an LPGA Tour win in her career.
“It was such a good day,” she said. “My boyfriend was on the bag for Jen Kupcho and it was hard to watch them on 18. But what a great day. We were all battling all day and that's what makes it, right?
“I think (Pajaree and I) were both a little nervous on the playoff holes. They weren't great shots. But she played great today. She putted amazing. Yeah, kudos to her. I'm just proud of myself for putting myself in this situation and I look forward to next week.”
Talley, who smiled and hugged Anannarukarn immediately after the playoff, could not have sounded more upbeat. “Unfortunately, I didn't get it done,” she said. “But I actually wrote in my yardage book last night, ‘Thank God for this opportunity and the experience no matter what happens.’ That's truly how I feel.”
Talley is on the road to redemption after chasing extra distance and a game that didn’t suit her. She has returned to her old coach and a new sports psychologist, both of whom have her back in a positive place.
“I had to learn how to play the game again,” she said. “I lost my game for two years, so this confidence I can just build on and learn from it and keep going. I'm excited. I haven't been like this in a long time, so just super excited to kick some butt this year.”