Park Edges Salas in Playoff at Indy Women

Sung Hyun Park Continues to Be Lethal in Playoff Situations

From a fan’s perspective as well as that of a golfer’s, there are few situations to come around in the game of golf that are more daunting than a playoff. It depends, of course, on  how one got there. If one rallies from three or four down and sinks an eagle putt on 18 to get into extra holes, the word playoff has a music all its own. However, that’s not always the way it happens. Often, someone is hanging on to a lead by the skin of their teeth, and the pressure to maintain it for one more hole is overwhelming. If you slip up and bogey the last hole, or your opponent birdies it, the work you have done all week to hang on to the lead is in sudden jeopardy. The power word is “sudden,” as in “sudden death playoff.”

Falling into a sudden death playoff after holding the lead is a sort of death in itself. I have experienced it at least on a low-ranking amateur level, and that sick feeling in the stomach is unmistakable.  Any lack of confidence can deliver a blow right there that makes winning the imminent playoff more difficult.  Lizette Salas didn’t appear to have any confidence problem at all through the entire Indy Women in Tech Championships this week, but with a chance to take the final hole and walk away with the trophy, she chose the worst possible moment in which to falter. It began when she missed the fairway, landing in serious enough rough. Looking at that shot, she needed a couple of things to go very well…and one of them did. She put a wedge around four feet from the pin. Make that little character builder, and her day is done. Her work would have paid off. I don’t know the precise interpretations Salas made on that putt, but it somehow went awry, and the dreaded playoff commenced.
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The opponent in extra holes was Sung Hyun Park. For my money, if I played well enough to get into a playoff on an LPGA tournament, Sung Hyun Park is the last player on tour I  would want to see on the next tee. Earlier in the summer, Park took the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship…in a playoff over Ryu So-Yeon and Nasa Hataoka. Along the way, she pulled off master shot after master shot, one within inches of requiring scuba gear. On the other hand, Lizette had played brilliantly, and there was no reason to think that she couldn’t continue doing so. Her last victory came in 2014, so she’s been a pro for a while since her days at USC. She’s plenty seasoned. However, Park put things to rest quickly and birdied the first playoff hole, ending the event. I would think that human nature would dictate running the last round through one’s mind to search for that one shot that got away, the one that could have saved the tournament. Salas doesn’t have to look farther than the green of 18.

The sudden death playoff is so different than the 18 hole playoff, more like being thrown into the gladiator ring. The missio is to produce something spectacular right away, grab the trophy and get out of there. The 18 hole playoff seems as if less anxiety is produced. One is still being judged on a larger body of work lasting a day. If you don’t begin in spectacular fashion, there’s always the next tee. In today’s format, these two players make birdies all the time. It just came down to the one who would make the first one. Very likely, Park will regain her former position as number one in the world. Lizette will take home a nice check, hopefully will be proud of her week’s play, and look forward to the next week. She’s a talent, young, and has many years of competitive golf ahead of her. Still, I’ll bet she’d like to keep this playoff thing to a minimum.

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