Jiyai Shin said before the Ricoh Women’s British Open that Rory McIlroy’s example has inspired her. She then went out and took a page out of McIlroy’s major championship form by overpowering the field in taking the Open at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club by nine shots.
It was Shin’s second straight LPGA Tour win, and 10 th overall. She took the Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, VA when she defeated Paula Creamer in a nine-hole playoff that carried over to last Monday.
Shin is 24 years old. McIlroy is a year younger. Like McIlroy, Shin swings the club so smoothly that she defines “rhythm.” McIlroy won the 2011 U.S. Open by eight shots, and the PGA Championship last month by the same Secretariat-like margin. Shin won the Women’s Open by nine shots, as she shot 71-73 on Sunday to be the only player under par. She finished at nine-under 279, beating her fellow South Korean Inbee Park by those nine shots.
“I think Rory is very good for me to look at,” Shin had said during a press conference Wednesday in advance of the opening round. “He was a little down, but after he won the PGA Championship he won another two. So I’m like, okay, it’s my turn to win again.”
McIlroy has won the last two FedEx Cup events, and goes into the upcoming Tour Championship the leader in FedEx points. He’s playing the sort of golf that makes him appear invincible, although there’s no such thing. It would be foolish to think Shin is going to continue winning tournament after tournament, just as it would be silly to think she couldn’t become women’s golf most dominant player.
Consider what she’s accomplished. She’s won those 10 LPGA Tour events. The 2008 Women’s British Open was one of her wins, which makes her, like McIlroy, a double major winner. But enough of the comparisons to McIlroy. Shin stands alone on the LPGA Tour, and that’s good enough. It’s much better than good.
Shin has not exactly had it easy off the course. She was 16 when she got a phone call informing her that her mother had been killed in a car accident. Her younger brother and sister were seriously injured, and were in the hospital for nearly a year. She moved into the hospital to help care for them.
The insurance money from the accident that killed her mother helped finance Shin’s professional career. She won 21 times on the LPGA Korea Tour. She won three of 10 tournaments she played on the 2008 LPGA Tour as a non-member, including the Women’s British Open. She joined the LPGA Tour the next year.
In 2010 Shin had to take time off due to appendicitis. Earlier this year she had wrist surgery this year on May 24 th and had to take two months off from competition. At Royal Liverpool, better known as Hoylake, and the links where Tiger Woods won the 2006 Open Championship, she shot 64 in the second round. She didn’t miss a fairway or green. She astonished even herself.
Then, on Sunday, she locked out the field. She locked them out even after triple-bogeying the first hole in the last round. (The golfers had to play two rounds on Sunday because foul weather Saturday rendered golf impossible). Never mind that triple-bogey, she told herself. She said she was shocked by the triple, but implacably, she played on.
So it was that she came to the par-five 16 th with darkness settling quickly over Hoylake. The strong winds were making it difficult for players to remain stable over the ball. She was on top at that point by miles and was going to win. That was obvious. She hit her second into a pot bunker, 30 yards short of the green.
There’s no shot more difficult than a long bunker shot. Shin picked the ball cleanly and it cleared the bunker face easily. The ball finished 18 inches from the hole. Birdie.
“That was a 10 out of 10, easy,” television commentator and former PGA Tour player Bill Kratzert said.
Shin soon chipped close to the hole on the final green, and tapped in her par putt to make the win official. No wonder her nickname translates as Final Round Queen.
Shin held the trophy aloft in near-darkness. An Asian had won every women’s major this year. She couldn’t offer any reasons why this had happened, but she was aware of what the win meant to her.
“My first win in 2008 changed my life,” Shin said of her first Women’s British Open victory. “This week, this win, I think it will change it too. I said at the start of the week I wanted to play every round in one under par so to get to nine under in this weather on a course as tough as this is incredible. Now I know I can get a good score on any course, I’m pretty sure of that.”
Shin has every reason to be sure of that.
RELATED LINK: More Blogs from Lorne Rubenstein
Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein