Shin ushers in new era as Sorenstam bids farewell
Monday 04 August 2008
On the day the female game's greatest champion said farewell to major competition, the Ricoh Women's British Open welcomed its third winner from Korea. Ji-Yai Shin may never become quite as famous as Annika Sorenstam, but the movement of which she is an integral part is dominating the game in a manner the Swede could never have imagined.
Incredibly, and somewhat chillingly for America and Europe, Asia filled the first five places here and Shin's glory means that two of the four major champions for 2008 are Korean and three happen to be from Asia. The revolution is now so advanced it has created its new norm. Saying that, there is little normal about Shin.
She is only 20 and just 5ft tall, but here she belied both her date of birth and her measurements with a performance that was as mature as it was inspired. An 18-under total gave her a three-stroke victory over Taiwan's Ya-Ni Tseng. It was earned courtesy of a brilliant 66, highlighted by a 50-foot putt for birdie on the short 13th. In truth, there were many highlights in a near faultless performance produced by her wonderfully compact swing. This particular Seoul sister has already established herself as the jewel from her country's production line.
Yet Shin's is not the clichéd tale of a young Korean girl being told to concentrate on nothing but golf. The fates made sure it was not that simple. Four years ago, when still an amateur, she was on the practice range when a call came through saying her mother had been killed in a car crash and that her brother and sister were on the critical list.
Shin actually moved into the hospital for a year to tend her siblings and only turned professional when they recovered. Shin dedicated this first major to her mother, although she has inevitably done that with all her 22 wins in her remarkable rise.
It was a poignant finale to an afternoon that began with Sorenstam's emotional walk up the 18th. The Swede kept her composure – until she saw that message on the scoreboard. It said, "Annika, you will be missed".
"That was very special," said Sorenstam. "Once I'm inside the ropes it's work, but there were times when these feelings started to play their part. That's what happened on the 18th hole and I'm glad they did. This game has meant so much to me that if I didn't feel anything it would have been weird." As it was, Sorenstam recovered her poise and plonked a six-iron to within 12 feet. Then, in a magical moment reminiscent of Jack Nicklaus at St Andrews in 2005, Sorenstam holed her final putt, on her final hole, of her final major – for a birdie. "I was just looking at the hole and thinking, 'This is it'," she said. "It didn't seem like there was any doubt it was going in. It's amazing when you will something that much, it just happens."
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