Angela Stanford of the United States claimed her first major title in 76 attempts after a dramatic finish to The Evian Championship in France.
With a final round of two-under-par 68, the 40-year-old from Saginaw, Texas, came from five strokes behind the overnight leader Amy Olson and set the clubhouse target at 12-under-par on a beautiful final day at the Evian Resort.
Thinking that she had lost the title, she returned to the locker room to contemplate her fate and watch the drama unfold.
It was all down to Olson, who had led or co-led since the second round and held a one-stroke lead standing on the 18th tee. However, disaster struck and the 26-year-old from North Dakota blew her chances when she nervously pulled her drive left into deep rough.
Facing a difficult Iie, she could only stab the ball out a few yards further towards the fairway with her second shot and she remained in the rough. After playing her third shot to the green, she needed to hole a difficult putt for par from 40 feet, up and over a ridge, to ensure the win.
Having left several birdie putts short throughout the final round, she over compensated by rushing her ball seven feet past the hole.
Then, after nervously watching her playing partners putt and needing to make her attempt to force a play-off, she missed, racking up a double bogey six and handing Stanford the major prize, worth $577,500 (495,460 euros).
Stanford’s emotions went from complete disappointment to elation in a matter of minutes. Moments earlier, she had sunk to her knees and placed her head in her hands after missing her birdie chance. Afterwards, the tears flowed with relief. Stanford’s first major win came in her 18th year and on her 436th start on the LPGA Tour.
“I’m so happy for everybody at home, everybody that’s cheered for me and never gave up on me. I mean, God is funny. He catches you off guard just when you think that maybe you’re done. It’s amazing,” said Stanford, the first American to win The Evian Championship since it became a major in 2013.
“I’m not thinking that Amy is going to do what she did. Nobody does. I thought I had lost at that point.
“For the longest time, I thought I was a major winner. I thought I was good enough. Not getting it, doubt starts creeping in, to say the least.
“The road hasn’t always been easy to get to this point, but it was cool today.”
Stanford started her final round with birdies on the second and fourth holes, but she dropped a shot at the short eighth. Her back nine was more interesting. She made another birdie on the 10th but then gained a brief share of the lead with a brilliant eagle on the long 15th, where she struck a perfect 7-wood up to within six feet of the hole. However, she immediately undid the good work with a double bogey five on the next hole. She recomposed herself on the 17th tee and made a birdie from 20 feet.
“I wanted to throw up on both tees, but, you know, I kind of told myself that I had to kind of be who I am. I do a lot of bad things; I make a lot of bad swings; I do a lot of stupid stuff, but I’m also a grinder and a fighter and I’m also never going to quit. At that moment I needed to be me,” she said.
“I remember someone telling me one time, ‘You have to put yourself in the position. Somebody has to be there. Just put yourself in the position and whatever happens, happens.’”
Unfortunately, it happened to Olson, who missed the fairway on 18.
“Obviously it’s really disappointing to finish like that, but I had a great week. I have so many positive things to take away from it,” she said. “This is my best finish I believe in a major, so that’s always a positive.”
Olson tied for second with fellow Americans Austin Ernst and Mo Martin, as well as Sei Young Kim from the Republic of Korea, with Ryann O’Toole and Jeong Eun Lee tied for sixth place.
England’s Georgia Hall, the 2018 Ricoh Women’s British Open champion, ended in a tie for 16th after carding a final-round of three-over 74, while her compatriot Charley Hull finished a shot further back in joint 22nd place.
Hall said: “Nothing really went right but it’s fine. It happens, it’s golf and I’m not too disappointed. I played well most of the week and I just couldn’t get anything going today, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, the US Women’s Open champion, wrapped up the Rolex Annika Major Award as the most consistent player across the five women’s majors in 2018.