Posted by: happyfan08 | January 20, 2009

2008 Awards: Clutch Performance of the Year

Ji Yai Shin, round 3, last few holes, ADT Championship

The ADT Championship is one of the oddest tournaments in professional golf.  An elite field of 32 golfers qualifies to play.  After two rounds, the top 16 move on.  The scores are then reset, and one more round of golf is played; only the top 8 move on to the final day.  The scores are reset one more time, and the best golfer on Sunday walks off with a million dollars.

 

To make it even more treacherous, the final three holes on the ADT course are among the toughest on tour all year.  The 16th is a par 4 with a generous driving area, but you better hit the fairway, because the second shot is to a green surrounded on three sides by water.  Hitting that green from the rough or a fairway bunker is extremely tough.  Even getting on the green doesn’t guarantee a par, though, because it has multiple levels and is very fast.

 

The 17th hole is a par three with water on almost every side.  It is perhaps the hardest hole on the course.  The 18th also has water all along the right side, and two fairway bunkers that are tough to clear.  The banks of the green are mown so short that players have landed their balls practically on the green, only to see them roll down into the water.  But go too far left to avoid the water, and there is a dangerous bunker waiting.

 

It is safe to say that any player who wants to win the million dollars needs to be able to play these three holes well.  In 2008, the player who was by far the most effective on those holes was Ji Yai Shin.  Her clutch play on the final three holes, more than anything else, was what won her the million dollar first prize.

 

Shin actually had a little trouble on these holes the first two days.  On day one, she made a bogey on the 16th hole.  But on the 17th, she hit a superlative iron shot to a few feet and made birdie, then wrapped up her day with a par on 18.  She finished the first day at 3 under, well on her way to qualifying for the weekend.

 

On Friday, however, Shin had some trouble early in her round.  She was several shots over par, and needed a decent finish to insure she would make the weekend.  She made par on 16, but on 17 she once again hit her ball very close and made birdie.  On 18, she was not able to get up and down from the rough, but her even par over those final three holes was still good enough for her to move on to the next round.

 

Saturday was probably Ji Yai Shin’s biggest challenge of the week.  She was one over par as she reached the 15th hole; as it turned out, she would need to be at least even par to be in a playoff for the final spot, one under to make it in.  But how would she be able to play the final holes under par?  It seemed a daunting task awaited her.

 

But Shin rose to challenge brilliantly.  She birdied the par 5 15th to move to even, dunking a longish putt in the process.  She made par on 16.  Then, on 17, she put her tee shot to 20 feet, and made the birdie there.  Incredibly, it was the third straight day she had birdied this deadly hole.  That left her at even par; a par on 18 would get her into the playoff, while a birdie would move her through outright.  She responded by hitting two great shots to get her ball within ten feet.  Then she drilled the birdie as though nothing were on the line at all.  Shin had played the final four holes on this day in three under par.

 

On Sunday, the million dollars would once again come down to how she played the final three holes.  She had had a two shot lead coming into the 15th hole, but a bogey there dropped her into a tie for the lead with Seon Hwa Lee, and only a one shot cushion over Karrie Webb.  Lee would mess up on the 17th hole, dropping her out of contention.  But Webb was still a threat.

 

Ji Yai Shin wins a million dollars!

Ji Yai Shin wins a million dollars!

 

Ji Yai responded by hitting a perfect drive on 16, then one of the best shots of the year, a masterful iron to two feet for an easy birdie.  Webb scrambled to a par to stay one back.

 

On 17, Shin once again, for the fourth day, hit a great iron, this time to 5 feet.  She missed the birdie for the only time all week, but tapped in the par.  Webb two putted for her own par.  So it all came down to 18.  Shin once again split the fairway, then hit the green, leaving herself just fifteen feet from the hole.  Webb left her approach 35 feet away, but incredibly made the birdie.  Shin would have to two putt to win.  No problem!  Once again, with nerves of steel, she lagged the ball to a foot, then dropped in the par for the win.  Over four days, Ji Yai Shin had played the tough 16th, 17th and 18th holes 3 under par.

 

Honorable Mention:

Inbee Park, back nine, US Women’s Open

When Inbee Park reached the back nine on Sunday at the US Women’s Open, the outcome of the event was still very much in doubt.  She proceeded to give a master’s class in cool, making one great shot and one clutch putt after another while everyone else was falling apart.  She cruised to an easy four shot victory in style.

 

Best Stretch of Holes

Hee-Won Han, State Farm Classic, Round 3 back nine

From holes 10 through 17 in round three of the State Farm Classic, Hee-Won Han made 7 birdies and a par.  She shot a 29 on that nine, and flirted with 59 before missing a short putt on the front nine that reduced her to her eventual total of 61.

 

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