LYTHAM ST ANNES, ENGLAND – Mamiko Higa’s hopes of becoming only the second Japanese golfer to win a major were dashed when she finished in a tie for fourth, eight strokes behind winner Georgia Hall, after the final round of the Women’s British Open on Sunday.
Higa, who started the round three shots off the pace, undid four birdies with three bogeys and a double bogey on the tournament’s final day to finish with a 9-under 279 four-day total.
Her 1-over round on the last day at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club was her worst of the tournament and left her in a three-way tie for fourth.
“Even though it was up-and-down, intense golf and I couldn’t reach the score I needed, there isn’t a single shot during those 18 holes that I regret,” Higa said. “I played with everything I had and fought hard all four days.”
Higa finished tied for seventh on her Women’s British Open debut in 2013 but fell into a slump afterward. She posted her first win in four seasons on the Japanese LPGA tour last year, and is currently fourth on the money rankings.
The 24-year-old was seeking to become the first male or female Japanese golfer since Hisako Higuchi, winner of the LPGA Championship in 1977, to claim a major title on either the PGA or LPGA tours.
Instead it was Englishwoman Hall, named in honor of a famous Masters victory, who won her first major title at the age of 22.
Hall tapped in for a bogey — her first of the day — at the last hole to clinch a two-shot victory over Pornanong Phatlum in a gripping final-round duel at Royal Lytham.
Hall then hugged her playing partner from Thailand before being lifted off her feet by her caddie, father Wayne.
It was fitting Wayne, a former two-handicapper himself, was on the bag to experience the biggest moment of his daughter’s career.
Georgia was born during the 1996 Masters won by English golfer Nick Faldo at Augusta, Georgia. She was named in honor of that victory, which came after Faldo overcame a six-stroke deficit to Greg Norman in the final round.
Twenty-two years later, Hall is the pride of English golf just like Faldo was. And the way Hall kept her composure and kept producing the shots of her life down the stretch, there might be more major titles to come.
Her round of 5-under 67, which included six birdies, saw her finish on 17-under 271.
“I was loving it deep down, hitting the shots under pressure,” said Hall, who barely showed any emotions all round. “To get six birdies in the final round of a major is not bad.”
On the men’s tour, Hideki Matsuyama finished with a 1-over 281 total to finished tied for 39th, far behind winner Justin Thomas, at the Bridgestone Invitational, which he won last year.
Matsuyama had a wildly inconsistent day, eagling the second and snagging birdies on three and four before a double bogey on the sixth hole halted his momentum. He went on to bogey No. 8 and three holes on the back nine as he crumbled to finish the tournament with a 1-over 281 total.
“I thought I could keep up (the early scoring), but it didn’t work out. My putter felt out of sorts, and it just ended badly,” Matsuyama said.
“I don’t know what to do, but after such a difficult course I just want to hurry up and get back to playing good golf.”
Thomas shot a 1-under 69 on Sunday secure his first World Golf Championship title.
Playing in the final group with Rory McIlroy, the 25-year-old Thomas never let anyone closer than two shots of the lead on Sunday. He made only two birdies and left the mistakes to everyone within range of him. McIlroy finished the front nine with consecutive bogeys and never recovered. Ian Poulter started three shots behind and shot 74. Jason Day made a run with three straight birdies to start the back nine, only to play the final six holes in 5-over par for a 73.
Tiger Woods was never in the picture.
In the final World Golf Championship at Firestone, on the South course where Woods set a PGA Tour record with eight victories, he tried to end with a bang and turned in a dud. Woods made two double bogeys and three bogeys on the back nine and salvaged a 73 to finish 15 shots behind.
“Things could have certainly gone better,” Woods said. “But it is what it is, and on to next week.”
Thomas could not have asked for a better week. Winless the last five months without feeling as though his game was in disarray, he got the result he needed ahead of the final major of the year. He joined Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson as three-time winners this season.
He lost in a playoff at the Mexico Championship. He lost in the semifinals of the Match Play. At the Bridgestone Invitational, he became the 21st player to win a World Golf Championship and a major.
“It was kind of one of the few things left that I felt I needed to knock off or felt that would have been nice to add to the resume, for sure,” Thomas said. “To win on a golf course like this, a championship golf course and always against a very tough field, it just felt great.”
Johnson, the world’s No. 1 player who was coming off a victory in the Canadian Open last week, started the final round 10 shots behind and shot 29 on the front nine. A birdie at No. 10 put him three shots behind, but that was all he had.