Vexed end to Lang's play-off victory

US golfer Brittany Lang (right) is congratulated by Paula Creamer after defeating Anna Nordqvist of Sweden in a play-off to win the US Women's Open at CordeValle Golf Club on Sunday. Teenager Lydia Ko had led the field by two strokes, but missed a ch
US golfer Brittany Lang (right) is congratulated by Paula Creamer after defeating Anna Nordqvist of Sweden in a play-off to win the US Women's Open at CordeValle Golf Club on Sunday. Teenager Lydia Ko had led the field by two strokes, but missed a chance to create history. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

First Major for American, but late decision on two-stroke penalty a dampener for Nordqvist

SAN FRANCISCO • Brittany Lang won the US Women's Open on Sunday in a three-hole play-off against Anna Nordqvist, whose challenge was doomed by a two-stroke penalty at the second play-off hole.

Nordqvist was penalised for grounding her club in a fairway bunker, with video showing her club barely touching the sand before she hit out.

That paved the way for Lang - who parred all three play-off holes - to capture her first Major title at CordeValle in San Martin, California. The two had ended regulation tied on six-under par 282 - two shots in front of a group that included world No. 1 Lydia Ko.

American Lang, who captured her only prior LPGA Tour title at the 2012 Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, closed with a one-under 71.

"I can't believe it. It means absolutely everything," said the 30-year-old. "This is what you dream of. It's amazing."

NOT DISPUTING THE DECISION, JUST THE TIMING

It wasn't my intention to ground the club... probably misjudged it a little bit and touched a little bit of sand and that is a penalty. I just wish they would have told me a little earlier.

ANNA NORDQVIST, accepting the consequences.

Lang had taken sole possession of the lead at the par-three 16th, where she rolled in a 15-foot downhill birdie putt. However, a three-putt bogey at 17 dropped her back into a tie for the lead with Nordqvist.

The Swede, who had stormed to the top of the leader board with a final-round 67 that included three birdies and an eagle, didn't learn of the penalty until after her third shot at the final play-off hole.

"Well, first, I couldn't really believe that it happened," she said. "It wasn't my intention to ground the club... probably misjudged it a little bit and touched a little bit of sand and that is a penalty. I just wish they would have told me a little earlier."

Nordqvist said she might have been a little more aggressive with her shot into the green if she'd known she was two strokes adrift.

The US Golf Association's timing in telling the players of Nordqvist's penalty recalled the rules fracas at the men's US Open, where the USGA came in for criticism of its handling of a penalty against eventual winner Dustin Johnson - who was told by on-course officials he wouldn't be penalised after his ball moved on a green, then told he might be, then finally was.

While Nordqvist wished she'd learned sooner of the penalty, she had no argument with the decision.

"Hey, I made a mistake and I will have to take the consequences for it," she said.

Lang sympathised with Nordqvist, acknowledging that knowing she had a cushion made things easier for her as she hit into the final play-off hole.

"Definitely it took a little bit of pressure off me," she said.

Ko was leading the tournament by two strokes with 12 holes to play, but the 19-year-old New Zealander suffered a sudden dip in form, dropping five shots in seven holes around the turn to cede the lead.

Had she won, she would have become the youngest golfer to win three Major titles, eclipsing the long-established mark set by Young Tom Morris when he clinched the 1870 British Open aged 19 years and four months.

"Unfortunately, I am not the one holding the trophy, but I feel proud of the way I played," Ko said after carding a 75 to finish at four-under 284, two shots behind Lang. "I wasn't in any good position after the first day, and even to be leading after three days, I think, was a good performance,"

South Korea's Park Sung Hyun, who led after 36 holes, bogeyed the last to complete a 74 that left her tied for third on 284, alongside Ko and South Koreans Amy Yang (73) and Ji Eun-Hee (74).

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2016, with the headline 'Vexed end to Lang's play-off victory'. Print Edition | Subscribe