No 4 Open Grabs Spotlight


2005 Stories of the Year - #4Editor's note: We are counting down the top 10 stories in golf for the 2005 season. This is Story No. 4.
Cherry Hills is the scene of a monumental moment in mens golf, that day in the 1960 U.S. Open when Arnold Palmer drove the green at the first hole en route to his final-day victory.
Now Cherry Hill has another watershed moment. This one came at the U.S. Womens Open, but it came at the 18th hole. Suddenly, swiftly, with a shocking climax, the 2005 Womens Open was decided on the last hole on Sunday.
The acknowledged best player in all of womens golf, Annika Sorenstam, didnt win. Neither did Lorena Ochoa, who detonated on the final hole after it appeared she was going to do it. Neither did the 17-year-old amateur, Morgan Pressel, who had to be content with a tie for second, nor the person she tied for runner-up, 19-year-old amateur Brittany Lang.
No, each had a shining moment, but fell back. Not so one Birdie Kim, who had one glorious opportunity, one moment when she could say, this is it ' and took advantage of it.
That came late in the day, on the 72nd and final hole. Kim was tied for the lead with Pressel, a high school student from Florida. Pressel was playing one group behind Kim and had a clear view of the unlikely proceedings.
Morgan Pressel
Morgan Pressel is brought to tears by the shocking 72nd hole finish.
The 18th hole at Cherry Hills in Denver is 459 yards long. Kim had managed to get up close to the green, but her approach shot had landed in a deep bunker some 60 feet from the cup. No one on the course, no one in the gallery, expected Kim to make the shot. After all, look at her bunker statistics during the 2005 season up to that point ' Birdie was only 141st on the LPGA, having converted just six of 27 tries.
But this time, she was perfect. Kim carefully swung, the club slapping the sand, the ball arching out of the bunker, then bounding and rolling, and rolling, til it finally reached its destination. It dropped into the cup, a birdie for Birdie!
It could have been Annikas tournament ' after all, she had won the seasons first two majors and she was slowly, determinedly tracking down this one en route to the Grand Slam. She had opened with a 71, positioning her just off the lead of 69. But Sorenstam skied to a 75 the second day, and though she came back with another 71 the third round, she opened the final 18 with a 42 and could never mount a serious rally.
It could have been Ochoa. She had the lead coming into that same 18th hole ' but detonated in a quadruple-bogey. She hit a 3-wood off the tee and chunked it, into water. She finally staggered into the scoring trailer with an eight and finished four shots behind Kim.
And it could have been Pressel. She had played beautifully for a 17-year-old ' beautifully, that is, for anybody in the field. She had carefully, painstakingly set herself up for no worse than a playoff. Then, from out in the fairway, she saw Kims magical shot.
Pressel clasped her hands to the top of her head in disbelief. That was unbelievable, that she made that shot, she said afterwards. I was like, I cant believe this is happening to me.
But in the end, it was a young Korean named Birdie 'she changed her name from Ju-Yun to Birdie to distinguish herself from all the rest of the Koreans who play the tour. And it didnt matter that, up until that week late in June, she had missed the cut in seven of 13 tournaments. And it didnt matter that she couldnt finish in the top 20 in a full-field event thereafter. For four solid days in Denver, she was the champion, picking her way through all the hazards and the brutal setup that was Cherry Hills.
Finally, she stood on the 72nd tee, still astounded that she was in this group that still had a chance to win. I never think about to win, she said in her delightfully fractured English. I just try to do my best.
She started the hole with a driver off the tee, then had an uphill lie with her 7-wood. She tried to draw the 7-wood, but ball doesnt draw between the bunker, she said.
That wasnt the ideal scenario for Kim. Actually I am not a real good bunker player, she said. Also I change my sand wedge about two weeks ago. That club is not used yet to me. So I have a lot of miss this week with bunker shot. Finally I make it.
Birdie Kim
Birdie Kim celebrates her unlikely final hole birdie.
Her playing partner was 15-year-old Michelle Wie ' who, incidentally, was also tied for the lead when the day began but suffered an 82. Wie also had a bunker shot from the same bunker as Birdie. Wie played first.
I watching Michelle's, Kim said. Her ball is not much that rolling, not a lot. I have confidence that I can close to make the hole.
Now it was Birdies turn to play. It was not the kind of shot that you think has a chance to go into the hole.
I don't think I make. I just try to get close, she said. Tried my best to make par, maybe I can, make bogey still I have chance. I just want to try to par, get close to hole. But I never think about those ball go in the hole. So amazing.
So I catch - green is not that fast, not that hard and more I have confidence to make close to the pin and after hit really I didn't see the roll. Maybe get close, but it's very big -- maybe really close, I just run up, was go in.

Wie sensed something before Birdie hit the shot. I had a good feeling about that, she said. I knew she was going to make par. But I guess her name was lucky, so she made a birdie.
So the 23-year-old rode that shot to victory. And now, regardless of where she is, regardless of what she is doing, she can tell her grandchildren about how she won the U.S. Womens Open.

Just amazing, she said with a big laugh. I didn't try to make it. That's why I was surprised and maybe that helped me, that's why I can make it.
Related Links:
  • The Year in Review
  • U.S. Women's Open Coverage
  • Photo Gallery - U.S Women's Open