It took 16 hours and two days, but Jiyai Shin finally defeated Paula Creamer in an epic nine-hole playoff at the Kingsmill Championship.
Finally, on the 16th hole -- the first of overtime on Monday morning after darkness forced a halt to the extra frames on Sunday night -- Shin two-putted for par to win her first LPGA event in two years.
“The last couple of years was really tough time for me,” Shin, who missed two months while recuperating from wrist surgery, told Golf Channel, which broadcast the finale to the finale at 9 a.m. ET Monday. “This year I had a hand operation so I’m very surprised this winning [came] so quick.”
For Creamer, who had a chance on the final hole in regulation to capture her first win since 2010 but three-putted her way into a playoff, capped off her week with another three-putt on the 81st hole.
An emotional Creamer spoke with Golf Channel afterward.
“It’s tough, it’s frustrating, but I just didn’t hit a very good putt, the first one,” she said of her first stroke on the 16th green that slid by the hole. “It almost went in, yes, but it went five feet by. It’s tough, a left-to-right to walk away with a par.”
Despite having to delay their flight to the U.K. for this week’s Women’s British Open, Creamer contended she would have “said yes in a heart beat” if someone had asked her prior to the Kingsmill event if she wanted to “play a nine-hole playoff and a chance to win a tournament.”
The additional golf made the Sunday-Monday event the longest two-player playoff in LPGA history. Indeed, Bill Murray had nothing on Creamer and Shin. The two finalists played their own version of “Groundhog Day” on Sunday, when they trudged between tee and green on the 18th hole eight times -- before darkness halted their marathon sudden-death extra session.
For sure, with both players trading pars eight times before finally deciding they would have to circle the field with car lights on high beam if they were to continue, Creamer teed up her ball on the 18th before deciding it was time to call it quits.
“My white driver was brighter than the golf ball sitting down there and I’m thinking this probably isn’t a good idea,” said Creamer, who noted she wanted to keep going but that Shin was not so keen on the concept. “I looked at Jiyai and Jiyai said no. So it's unfortunate that we have to do that, but...we respect each other's decisions [that] we can't play in that.”
Each golfer had been hoping to get back to the winner’s circle for the first time in two years. Creamer’s last victory was at the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open, Shin's the Evian Masters in the same season.
“I know winning is always tough, but not this tough,” Shin said Sunday night.
For a tour that has struggled to gain momentum in the last few years, the number of fans lining the 16th fairway on a spectacular, fall-like Monday was nothing short of impressive.
The players, each of whom had numerous chances to make the winning putt on Sunday, picked up where they left off, splitting the fairway with their drives. After Creamer’s five-iron came up short right on the green, with the pin middle left, Shin knocked a six-iron closer but above the hole.
Creamer’s birdie putt from downtown slipped by the hole by some five feet. Shin’s 10-footer never had a chance, as it was right all the way. But when Creamer lipped out her left-to-right breaking second putt, Shin had a short one to seal the deal, and she did.
“I feel like this was a great week,” Creamer said. “Obviously I’m upset, but that’s sports, that’s golf, and you have have to pull it together and we’ve got next week to go.
“It’s a long time until our flight,” said Creamer, who displayed a sense of humor despite her disappointment, “so I’ll probably go practice a bunch of left-to-righters.”