Mo Martin hit the shot of her life on the 72nd hole at Royal Birkdale in the RICOH Women’s British Open. Heading into the 18th hole, she trailed the leader at the time, ShanShan Feng, by two shots, but then, Martin placed her drive down the left side of the fairway and struck a perfect 3-wood that rolled up and nearly rolled in for a rare albatross. Instead, the ball ricocheted off the pin to about six feet for eagle. She drained what turned out to be the winning putt for her first major victory (and first win on the LPGA), celebrating with an emphatic fist pump.
“An absolutely perfect 3-wood,” she said. “When it was in the air, I said, ‘Sit.’ And then I said, ‘Stop.’ And then when it was going toward the hole, I said, ‘OK, I don’t have anything more to say to that ball.’ I actually heard it hit the pin. It’s definitely one to remember.”
Martin fired a final round even-par 72, tying the low score of the day, with the blustery, brutal conditions at Royal Birkdale. The 31-year-old was the only player in the field to complete the tournament in red numbers at one-under for the championship — which was enough to take home the trophy.
Martin, who held the 36-hole lead, dropped down the leaderboard following a third-round 77, but she battled back from a three-shot deficit on Sunday, not to mention two bogeys in the first five holes.
After Martin signed her scorecard, she still had an hour left to wait for the last groups, which included Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen and ShanShan Feng, to botch their opportunities as they finished up.
Pettersen gave it a go, making back-to-back birdies to finish her round, but it was too little, too late. The Norwegian posted a 75 on Sunday, even par total, which was good enough for a share of runner-up honors with Feng.
Park and Feng each had their chances to even the tally, but they failed to birdie the two closing holes — which are both reachable-in-two par-5s.
That left Martin, who was hitting balls on the driving range in case of a sudden death playoff when she received the news, alone at the very top of the leaderboard.
“Is this real life?!?” she asked her caddie when he told her she was the champion.
Martin’s previous best finish at a major was T29 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the LPGA’s first major of the season, earlier this year. That said, she didn’t have high expectations heading into the week.
“I didn’t really have any expectations for this week in particular,” said Martin, who has three wins on the Symetra Tour. ” I mean, I fell in love with the golf course and I think anybody who enters the championship is trying to win it, and so that was definitely the intention.
“But I definitely didn’t expect this.”
That’s why sport is so great. Because the unexpected can happen and the underdog always has a shot (literally) — no matter how long — to take home the trophy.
I spoke with Martin immediately following her round…
Then again, after she had secured the win:
Feng was slightly disappointed, but she was also very excited for Martin:
Finally, an optimistic Suzann Pettersen: