Just when it looked like a rising young star was about to win the Cambia Portland Classic, another rising young star stole the title.
Australia’s Hannah Green, coming off her first LPGA victory in June, made a clutch eight-foot par putt on the 18th hole at Columbia Edgewater Country Club to cap a Sunday 67 and win by one stroke, keeping Yealimi Noh from becoming the third Monday qualifier ever to win on the LPGA Tour.
On a weekend when the top tennis match at the U.S. Open was between a 15-year-old and 21-year-old (Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka), it seemed fitting that the biggest story in women’s golf involved an 18-year-old who has no status on the LPGA Tour. Noh, a California native who was the U.S. Girls’ Junior champ a year ago, started the final round in Portland with a three-shot lead over Green, a [surprise winner two months ago at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship] (https://www.golfdigest.com/story/hannah-green-made-the-improbable-possible-winning-the-kpmg-womens-pga-championship). This was the second time Noh has Monday qualified for an LPGA event this year and ended up in the final group on Sunday, the first coming in June at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.
Yet Noh’s ball-striking on Sunday was clearly not at the level it had been throughout the first three rounds of the tournament. On Saturday, she hit 16 greens in regulation; on Sunday, she found only 11. Noh had to rely on a new putter she put in her bag just two weeks ago. Noh made important up-and-downs to save par at 11 and 12, and again at 13, that time for birdie.
Playing alongside Noh, Green displayed her usual steady golf: No big errors, and if anything, she was placing herself in positions to make more birdies than she was converting. It was the same fairways-and-greens golf that won the Aussie her first LPGA event at Hazeltine National.
Unfortunately for Noh, her putting started to fade. She made a bogey at 16 and then settled for par, and Green made birdie on 17.
Noh’s drive on the home hole went into a fairway bunker, and her approach flew long, coming to rest against the grandstand behind the green. The difficult chip raced 12 feet by the hole, and she missed the par comebacker. Green was able to make par for the win.
“I played a lot better today than I did yesterday, but I knew that I had to stay patient,” Green said. “Yealimi made some putts early in the round, and unfortunately you don't usually hole them the whole entire day.”
For Green, the win is proof that her triumph at Hazeltine National was no fluke. For Noh, the second-place finish, though initially painful, should be encouraging. Yes, the win would have meant Noh had LPGA Tour status for either the rest of 2019 or all of 2020 (her choice). It could have been a life-changing moment, and Noh knew it. But it’s still encouraging because it wasn't a once-in-a-lifetime moment. If she can place herself in the final group of an LPGA event twice, she should head into Q-Series (the re-worked LPGA Q school) with a lot of confidence.
She has already proven she’s essentially tour-ready. And she knows it.
“After playing a couple events, [I'm] kind of used to or kind of know what's going on at the events here,” Noh said. “I’m really excited for next year. Hopefully I can win next year.”