In a Rush to Finish the US Women’s Open, and Poised to Win

Seo, who woke up Sunday three over par, endured five weather delays over four days, including one of 2 hours 38 minutes on Sunday, better than any of the 72 golfers who survived the 36-hole cut. Forced to cover 36 holes Sunday, Seo started her third round at 6:45 a.m. and posted a three-under 68. At 7:55 p.m., she made a 2-foot par putt for a closing 68 to finish at three-under 281.

The putt was no gimme; Seo had missed a par putt from the same distance on the previous hole. She twice backed away from the putt before striking it. After the ball disappeared into the hole, she wearily pumped her fist and waved to the crowd.

“Nobody knows what’s going to happen,” Seo said. “I will just pray and wait.” She added: “Even if I could not be a winner, I don’t mind. I gave my best.”

Less than five minutes after Seo finished, play was suspended for the sixth time in the tournament with Seo’s three nearest challengers among the 30 still on the course. Her countrywoman So Yeon Ryu is one stroke behind with three holes to play. Cristie Kerr, the 2007 champion, is two shots back, at one under, with two holes left.

“I think she’s over there celebrating, but I mean, we all still have a chance,” Kerr said. “There are two accessible pins on 17 and 18, and I’m playing great. So I’m going out and swing for the fences and hopefully tie it up.” She added: “It’s been a very long week. I’m excited I get to come out here and finish tomorrow.”

How long and torturous was the week? The Ironman Open aged Seo, who turned 25 on Friday.

“I was a little tired,” said Seo, who will become the eighth South Korean woman to win a major if her score holds up.

Angela Stanford is three behind with four holes to play. Over the first three rounds, she has played the last four holes in one over par. She has bogeyed No. 15 twice.

“Well, I think the good thing is I like the last four holes,” she said, “and so when I get out here in the morning, I’ll be ready to attack them.”

On a day that featured funnel-cloud sightings in the area and gassed golfers walking, there were few sights more surreal than Seo and her playing partners, Azahara Munoz and Jiyai Shin, sprinting to their golf balls between shots on the 17th hole.

Were they sprinting to beat another storm cell that was gaining on them or because they had been warned by United States Golf Association officials that they had fallen behind the pace? Whatever the reason, Seo did not seem fazed. She took a moment after hitting her second shot onto the 17th green to admire a rainbow that had formed in the gray sky.

Yani Tseng, who could have completed a career Grand Slam with a victory, played the first nine holes of her final round in three under par to get to one over, four strokes off the lead, but struggled down the stretch and finished at six over.

“I don’t know what happened,” Tseng said. “I thought I have chance. But on the back nine, I probably just tried too hard and thinking too much and didn’t make par.” She added: “It’s tough to play on and off. Sometimes you just want to try to get rhythm, and it’s really tough.”

Seo had booked a flight out of Colorado for Monday morning.

“I think my manager changed it,” she said.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/11/sports/golf/us-womens-open-hee-kyung-seo-seems-poised-to-win.html

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