Posted by: happyfan08 | January 4, 2018

2017 SeoulSisters Awards (4 of 7): Shot of the Year, Round of the Year, Most Controversial

Shot of the Year

And the Winner Is: So Yeon Ryu’s approach to the 18th green in the playoff, ANA Inspiration

As mentioned before in ‘Clutch Performance of the Year’, at the ANA Inspiration, So Yeon Ryu was in the very unusual position of being heavily rooted against by the crowd, who really wanted to see her opponent in the playoff, Lexi Thompson, claim the win.  The two players were playing the par 5 18th hole, which sets up well for a long hitter like Thompson.  Ryu hit a perfect drive into the middle of the fairway, but Thompson missed the short grass and would have to lay up.  It was too risky to go for the green with all the water danger from that position.

But So Yeon had her own decision to make: with the most important shot she had had in five years before her, would she risk going for the green, or lay up, too?  After all, Thompson was not guaranteed a birdie, but if Ryu hit it in the drink, she would potentially squander her Major.

With the crowd against her, she went for it.  The ball carried the water, hit the green, and started to roll towards the water on the right.  Fortunately, it stopped a few feet before going in; her gamble had paid off.  Minutes later, she sank a birdie putt to claim the title, and not long after that, she would jump in the same water that her ball had avoided, but this time to celebrate her win.

Other Nominees:

Sung Hyun Park chip on final hole of US Women’s Open

Park had played brilliantly all day.  She captured the lead when her chief opponent, teenager Hye Jin Choi, hit her tee shot into the water.  On the final hole, she wound up in a precarious lie behind the green.  It would have been very easy from that position to muff the chip and give herself work to save par.  Although unlikely, she might even have blown the entire trophy at the moment it was nearly hers.  Which is of course what had happened the previous year at this very tournament, when her approach to the final par 5 had landed in the water.

Not to worry: she hit a superlative chip to a foot for an easy tap-in and the win.

IK Kim goes for green on hole 17, Women’s British Open

IK Kim had played an amazing round of golf on Saturday to give herself a six-shot lead going into the final round.  But all day Sunday, she was relentlessly challenged by Michelle Wie and Jodi Ewart Shadoff.  When long-hitting Wie got to the 17th hole, she balked at trying to carry the water on her second shot and played it safe.  But when IK got to that same hole later, despite not having the length Wie has, she boldly grabbed a wood and tackled the shot that had frightened the Hawaiian.  And she made it!  A beautiful and gutsy shot that put the exclamation point on her first ever Major win.

Ha Na Jang great eagle putt on 17, Australia Women’s Open

Ha Na Jang made a big move on Sunday at the Aussie Open, but the shot that won it for her came on the 17th hole.  She reached the green in two on this par 5, but left herself about sixty feet for eagle.  Naturally, she drained it, unleashing one of her epic fist pumps in celebration.  Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of her celebrating on tour next year, even if it will only be as a visitor!

Inbee Park, 17th hole, final round, HSBC Champions

Inbee Park was challenged all day in the final round by Ariya Jutanugarn, who at that point was close to becoming the #1 women’s golfer in the world.  On the penultimate hole, the long hitting Thai striped her iron to a few feet, while Inbee was left with about forty feet for birdie.  But as she had done all day, Inbee drilled the unlikely birdie to put the win away.

Round of the Year

And the Winner Is: Jeong Eun Lee 6, 60, KLPGA OK Savings Bank Pak Se Ri Invitational, Round 2

Jeong Eun Lee is known on the KLPGA as Lucky 6, but on one particular day, “Lucky 60” might have been more appropriate.  Lee had not started the Pak Se Ri Invitational well, but she caught fire on day two.  Alas, most people didn’t even realize just what they were witnessing, because she saved the real fireworks for the last five holes.  She finished birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie for a 60!  So, she never had a putt for 59, but her score was still the only 60 in the history of the KLPGA tour.  Naturally, she went on to win the event as well, her fourth triumph of the season.  And though we jokingly called her lucky 60, there was little lucky about it.  How do you shoot 60?  Learn how to putt like Lee, who made one incredible putt after another in this epic round.

Other Nominees:

So Yeon Ryu shoots 61, 2nd round, Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

So Yeon Ryu had a great start in Arkansas, shooting a 65, but in the second round, she shot the best round of her career, a scintillating 61.  She would go on to win the event by two over Amy Yang, and in the process, climbed to the #1 world ranking.  Not a bad week!

Hye Jin Choi, 63, final round, Chojung Sparkling Water

Choi’s first professional win came courtesy of a final round 63 that included *two* hole outs for eagle.  When it’s your day, it’s your day.

Inbee Park, final round 64, HSBC Women’s Champions

Inbee Park had only played one previous event since coming back from injury.  But she looked like the Inbee of old in the final round of the HSBC in Singapore, making one great putt after another to claim a one-shot win over Ariya Jutanugarn, with whom she was paired.  The Thai star later expressed awe at having watched the Hall of Famer do what she does best.

IK Kim, 3rd round, Ricoh Women’s British Open

Kim shot a 66 in the third round of the year’s fourth Major to give her a dominating 6-shot lead going into the final day.  It was all the more impressive when you consider that Kim had never won a Major before.

Jin Young Ko, 66, final round, Samdasoo Masters

Jin Young Ko’s 66 in the final round of the Samdasoo Masters on the KLPGA tour was impressive.  But what made it special was the fact that she birdied THE FINAL EIGHT HOLES for a back nine 28.  It was the most amazing run of birdies by a Korean in 2017.

Most Controversial Moment

And the Winner Is: Lexi Thompson’s ANA Inspiration penalty

OK, technically this does not directly relate to a Korean golfer, but this has to be the choice for the most controversial moment of 2017 for two reasons: So Yeon Ryu did end up winning the tournament in question, which in turn produced more controversy.  And, it really WAS the most controversial moment in women’s golf in 2017.

For those who don’t remember or didn’t hear: Lexi Thompson, American star, was leading the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first Major, by a couple of shots, when she was pulled aside by an official and told that she had been assessed a four-shot penalty.  On Saturday, she had replaced her ball on the green, noticeably moved from where she had picked it up and marked it several moments earlier.  This had been caught on TV, and an eagle-eyed TV viewer saw it and contacted the LPGA to let them know.  Thompson received two penalties as a result.  First, she was docked two shots for the illegal replacement.  Secondly, because she had signed for an incorrect scorecard on Saturday (obviously, her score was two shots worse thanks to the penalty, which she didn’t know about at the time she signed the scorecard), she received an additional two shots penalty.

Thompson somehow shook off the penalty enough to be competitive, but she still was only able to tie Korean So Yeon Ryu in regulation.  However, So Yeon beat her in the playoff to take the title.

As if that wasn’t enough, there was another minor controversy.  The player who had the better score in round 4 was supposed to draw lots to determine who went first in the playoff.  They allowed Ryu to do this, but the penalty was applied to Thompson’s Saturday score, not her Sunday score.  She actually had played slightly better than Ryu on Sunday and should have been the one to draw.

Message boards everywhere were filled with people complaining about the results and the penalty.  Some even took it out on Ryu (we’ll get to that in our next award).  But IMO, it was a tempest in a teapot.

Simply put: Thompson clearly violated the rule.  The rules were very explicit that she should receive four shots penalty for doing that.  In fact, she got lucky, because before they had been changed a few years ago, the penalty would have been *disqualification*.  Was it unfortunate?  Yes.  But absolutely legal and by-the-books.

As for the question of whether a fan should be allowed to call in to affect the outcome of a tournament: again, this is totally by the rules.  Is it fair that some players are on TV more and thus more likely to get called?  Maybe not, but if this is such a worry, they could always try SHOWING THE KOREAN GOLFERS MORE ON TV.  I’d be all for that.

(and, of course, all penalties in all sports are inherently unfair, in that some players will be caught breaking the rules and others won’t.  You can’t simply stop calling rules infractions because of this, it wouldn’t make sense).

The drawing of lots was a complete non-issue.  Yes, they did it wrong, but it’s a random drawing.  It doesn’t make any difference who ends up drawing, it’s random!

What bothered me as a fan was Thompson’s continued attempts to portray herself as a victim.  While it was unfortunate she got called, she DID break the rules.  And she has never just admitted that.  I recall a few years ago when a very similar thing happened to Chella Choi.  She had mismarked her ball, was penalized, and decided to not accept the penalty and withdrew.  Americans on message boards were calling for her head.  They branded her a cheater and demanded the LPGA suspend her.  Funny how there was very little of that from them about the American golfer.

The interesting denouement: the governing boards of golf have recently voted to change the rule to no longer allow users to call in during an event, and to remove the additional two-stroke penalty when a player is penalized after a round is done.  I’m totally fine with this change, but it is awfully interesting that these two changes both directly relate to what Thompson did.  It’s amazing how quickly golf’s governing bodies can act when an American is on the bad end of a rules controversy, isn’t it?

Other Nominees:

KLPGA’s KB Star Championship has entire first round canceled due to ball marking fiasco

Boy oh boy was this one a foul up! The KB Star Tour Championship is one of the five Majors on the KLPGA tour. This year, the course superintendents mowed the grass so closely around the greens that it was tough in several spots to tell where the greens ended and the fairway began. As a result, a number of golfers lifted their balls to clean them, thinking they were on the greens when they weren’t. They received the requisite two-stroke penalties.

But when it became obvious that more and more women were making the mistake, the officials decided to stop giving the penalties, and also to rescind the ones that had already been given.

Pandemonium resulted. Several of the golfers threatened to quit the tournament if the other golfers’ penalties were excused. Another group threatened to quit if the penalties were NOT excused. The arguments went into the night. Finally, the officials decided to completely scrub the first round score, a decision that no one liked. But at least no one quit.

Eventually, at least one of the officials resigned in disgrace.  This was such a fubar that it was one of the rare times when a KLPGA event made the American golf press. Alas, it was for the wrong reasons!

Cristie Kerr dreadful slow play at Volunteers of America Texas shootout

In Hawaii at the Lotte Championship, American golfer Cristie Kerr had seemingly adopted a strategy of purposely taking an abnormally long time to take each of her shots. The KLPGA player Su Yeon Jang seemed to be in a good position to win, but Kerr’s idling threw her off her game, and Kerr wound up with the trophy.

The following week, Kerr again found herself in contention at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout. This time, another golfer with Korean blood, half Japanese/half Korean Haru Nomura, was the player she was trying to beat. Nomura forced a playoff, and it seemed to go on absolutely forever, as Kerr took her time over each shot in agonizing slow motion. It got so bad that the commentators became audibly frustrated, and actually apologized to the audience for what was happening. The playoff lasted a mind-numbing six holes, but Nomura hung in there and eventually triumphed after what seemed like four hours but was probably a tiny bit shorter.

The next day, golf message boards all over the internet were full of criticism for Kerr and the LPGA for allowing her to get away with what they perceived as poor sportsmanship. Amazingly, even many American fans were criticizing her. In any event, the LPGA made a few statements about how they were serious about limiting slow play, but it doesn’t seem to have changed much as of now.

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