SAN MARTIN, Calif. — Eleven years after finishing as runner-up as an amateur in her first U.S. Women’s Open, Brittany Lang won her first major title — with help from a playoff penalty on Anna Nordqvist.
Lang made par on all three holes of the aggregate playoff and Nordqvist was given a two-stroke penalty for touching the sand with her club in a fairway bunker on the second playoff hole yesterday, helping deliver Lang the title.
“You never want to win with a penalty or something like that happen, especially to Anna, who is a friend of mine and a great player and a classy girl,” Lang said. “But it’s unfortunate. It’s part of the game and it happened that way.”
The players were not told of the penalty until they were in the middle of playing the final hole after officials reviewed replays in the latest controversy at a USGA event. Lang then sealed the win with a short par putt on the final playoff hole, while Nordqvist made bogey to lose by three shots.
“Seemed kind of unreal that it happened, but it does,” Nordqvist said. “It wasn’t any reason to question it. But I’m certainly disappointed of the timing of it.”
At last month’s men’s U.S. Open, eventual winner Dustin Johnson played much of the final round not knowing if he would be penalized one stroke because his ball moved as he addressed it on the fifth green. The penalty ended up proving moot as Johnson won by three shots.
Lang shot a 1-under-par 71 to finish at 6-under 282 in the tournament at CordeValle for her second win in 287 tournaments on the LPGA Tour.
She survived a bogey on the 17th hole that led to the playoff before recovering in the playoff for a breakthrough win at age 30.
“I think this is absolutely huge, a huge momentum builder to say you won the U.S. Open,” Lang said. “I think this is a huge, a huge step in the right direction for my career.”
Both players made pars on the first hole of the playoff, which was played on the final three holes of the course. Then things got interesting on the next hole after Nordqvist hit her tee shot into a fairway bunker. While preparing to hit the shot, Nordqvist’s club barely touched the sand. She did not realize it and both players made par on the hole, heading to the final playoff hole seemingly tied. But television replays showed the infraction and USGA officials studied the video before determining if the two-stroke penalty was necessary.
An official told Nordqvist about the penalty after she hit her third shot on the 18th hole but before Lang did, giving her a possible advantage.
“It certainly changed her game plan,” Nordqvist said. “But, you know, hopefully we can all learn from it and hopefully we can all get better.”
Lang hit her shot onto the green and the two-putted for the win, getting hearty congratulations from many of her fellow Americans on tour after she joined Michelle Wie (2014) as the only U.S. golfers to win the Open in the past six years.
Lang capitalized on a surprising final-round collapse by world No. 1 and 54-hole leader Lydia Ko, who made a double-bogey 7 on the ninth hole and shot 3-over 75, finishing two shots off the lead in a four-way tie for third with Amy Yang, Sung Hyun Park and 2009 winner Eun Hee Ji.
Gerina Piller used a tie for eighth place in the U.S. Women’s Open to move up one spot to 15th in the Rolex Rankings and earn a spot in the Olympics. Piller will join fellow Americans Lexi Thompson and Stacy Lewis on the team that will play next month in Rio de Janeiro.