2022 Women's Open Champions, Cutmakers And (Point) Missers
Winners and losers from Muirfield, plus a few rough moments from the LIV Wars and Nick Faldo's final CBS weekend.
A special Quad wrap of the best, worst and somewhere-in-between from a special week where Ashleigh Buhai held on to win the 2022 AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield. Plus some eye-opening moments in the wide, wide, wacky world of golf.
Ashleigh Buhai. Tying the Muirfield course record Friday and breaking it on Saturday? After bogeying the 18th each day? Those epic rounds will go down in major lore as two of the better consecutive rounds ever played. Saturday’s 64 featured six birdies in the opening ten holes before the 33-year-old held on to break the record in tough afternoon winds. Buhai’s late wave averaged two strokes higher than the morning. The South African hit an impressive 11 of 14 fairways, 13 of 18 greens and registered 25 putts. It was also a career low score. Sunday’s round understandably turned ragged after three brilliant days. But a clutch bunker shot at the fourth playoff hole sealed the win in memorable fashion. Buhai’s first official LPGA win comes at a major championship where she hit 58 of 72 greens for the week. She joins South African greats Gary Player and Ernie Els as champions at Muirfield. The clinching up-and-down:
Buhai’s Acceptance Speech. Powering through despite an effort to wrap things up, Buhai joined the long list of players to deliver an epic thank you post-Open. She thanked the greenkeeper, her new mental coach and most of the world, but it was oh so classy:
In Gee Chun. What a golf swing, what grace and what fun watching a player openly shows her appreciation for the crowd. On the second playoff hole, the runner-up overcame fairly mediocre putting all week to sink a huge 6-footer for bogey. Ever classy in defeat, the four-time major winner’s best previous finish in the Open was a 7th in 2020. And best of all, she funds the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Educational Foundation to support students seeking to achieve their education and vocational goals. What a player and what a season.
Minjee Lee. The U.S. Women’s Open champion finished T4 but her overall major record earned the Australian the 2022 Rolex Annika Major Award (RAMA), which recognizes the player who has the most outstanding record in all five (gulp) major championships. Along with her victory at the U.S. Women’s Open, she went T2 in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, 12th at the Chevron Championship and T43 in the Amundi Evian.
Rose Zhang. The only amateur to make the cut finished at 1-over-par and continues her ascent as a future star.
Muirfield. The storied links played to perfection. Each day we saw strong play rewarded and mistakes penalized. And wasn’t it a joy to see players facing the architecture how it was intended? The course showed well on television despite minimalist production elements that failed to capture its many alluring tee shots. If not for the AON risk-reward thingy at the par-5 17th, we would have been devoid of flyovers all week. Overall, the course averaged 72.461 for the four rounds and 72.970 on Sunday. The par-4 14th finished as the toughest hole all week (4.460), while the par-5 5th played easiest (4.404, 28 eagles).
Muirfield’s Rough. The warm summer and improved management allowed the course to shine. What a difference it made seeing recovery shots, including one on the 15th that almost derailed Buhai, followed by another that may have salvaged the championship.
Muirfield’s Future. Whatever tussles over membership issues between those feisty rivals at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers appear settled. The host received a resounding endorsement from Martin Slumbers early in the week and another during the trophy ceremony by the Championship Committee David Meacher, who called the week “stunning.” Can we pencil in an Open and another Women’s Open soon?
Course Presentation. Greenkeeper Colin Irvine’s along with the R&A’s Grant Moir highlighted the best design attributes and got the field around without many issues. Adjustments like moving up the 9th to ensure design elements remained in play reinforced the legendary par-5’s ingeniousness. And when The Met Office increased Saturday’s wind forecast, the team made a few adjustments to ensure play continued. The entire week was a reminder of Muirfield’s completeness as a championship course.
Future venues. The momentum continues with a heathlands stop at Walton Heath (2023), then it’s on to St Andrews (2024) and Royal Porthcawl (2025).
Morgan Pressel. Continues her quick ascent as one of the top analysts in golf. She watches players warm up and learns what they are working. But not to let us know how hard she is working. Pressel provides insight into what the players are grappling with and teaching us about the swing at the same time. And she’s already an old pro. Pressel kept talking without interruption when music started randomly playing Oscar-style during an on-camera chat with host Terry Gannon on Sunday.
Sky Sports. One benefit of the NBC/Comcast frugality: American’s enjoyed early coverage featuring Alison Whitaker, Laura Davies and very few commercial interruptions.
Lie Info. While this has been a regular part of DP World Tour coverage for years and moved into American network coverage over the last year or so, these views of how a ball sits on the ground need to become essential to covering the leaders.