Meadow comes up just shy, Maguire falters as Yin scoops maiden major

Ronan MacNamara

Stephanie Meadow (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

It was built up as the Leona Maguire story but it ended with Stephanie Meadow wondering what might have been as 20-year-old Chinese starlet Ruoning Yin burst from the pack to win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

Yin carded a flawless 67 including a closing birdie to post eight-under which proved good enough to win by a shot from Yuka Saso on a dramatic final day in Baltusrol.

Yin had to wait for confirmation of her maiden major win as Meadow stood in the middle of the 18th fairway with 3-wood in hand needing a grandstand eagle to force a playoff. Unfortunately, she topped her second shot and luckily it skimmed across the water hazard and out the other side to at least give her a chance of holing her third shot.


She did not, and her birdie putt was lacking in conviction as the Jordanstown native settled for a share of third place, her joint best major finish (3rd 2014 US Open) but she cut a dejected figure as she hugged her playing partner Maguire who stumbled to a three-over 74.

Maguire became the first player in seven years to hold a 54-hole lead and not win the PGA Championship as she shared 11th on four-under-par.

For Meadow however, there are plenty of positives in a season that has been slow to get off the ground. This was her first top-10 in ten starts and despite the cruel nature of her near miss she was full of positives.

“I had a little rough patch in the middle there and then I got it going and I had some birdie putts, and I couldn’t get anything — I wasn’t even really reading greens that well today, which is unusual for me,” said Meadow who saw big birdie chances on 15 and 16 go begging before rolling in from the front fringe on 17 to give herself a chance.

“But still, I hit some great shots to give myself some birdie looks, and then obviously it was really nice to make the one on 17 after it spun back off the green. Overall I’m happy that I gave myself the opportunity, gave myself some looks coming down the stretch.

“Everything about this tournament is always top-notch, and this year was no exception. Obviously not the outcome that either Leona or I wanted today, but we fought hard, and we did our best.”

The 31-year-old was in high spirits despite her misfortune, joking that it had been a long time since she finished third, “the cheque’s not bad!”

“Yeah, obviously that was not my career best shot there on the second. Yeah, I got lucky, and I knew it, and I still tried to make birdie. Sometimes the golf gods are in your favor and sometimes they’re not, so they were looking out for me right there, but I’ll just wipe that from the memory for now.

“I had to kind of — it was one of those shots where I had to hit it absolutely perfect to get to the front, and I knew that, and I think I tried to swing a little too hard and it was a little bit of a downhill lie. Yeah, it happens. Best players in the world can do it. I just got really lucky.”

While Meadow hung tough until the end, things didn’t happen for overnight leader Maguire and her bid for a maiden major ended on a whimper. Her lead was wiped out after three holes and after carding 13 birdies in 54 holes, the 28-year-old’s first move was backwards and she was unable to arrest a worrying slide.

Bogeys on the sixth and eighth either side of a par on the par-5 7th put her up against it and she was in deep trouble after a bogey on 11 that saw her fall three shots back.

A birdie on 13 was a brief reprieve before her chances ended with a bogey on 14.

Fresh out of college Rose Zhang made a run at the title with weekend efforts of 68 and 67 and there is no doubt she is destined for greatness but in China’s Yin it was the turn of another young star and more proof of the outstanding depth of young talent coming through in women’s golf which consequently will make major glory tougher for Maguire going forward.

Yin had a simple goal, make no three putts. It proved decisive.

“When I was on the 18th tee and I saw the leaderboard, and I know I have one-shot lead, but after the tee shot, I saw Yuka make an incredible birdie here, and I know I have to make birdie at this hole to win the championship. I’m glad I did it,” said Yin. ”

Today, I didn’t think too much. My goal was just no three-putts because the last couple days I made five bogeys, and four of them is made by three-putts. Today just no three-putts.”



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