By John Strege
Only a sunny disposition could counter the horizontal rain that at times on Sunday turned the Ricoh Women's British Open into a survival test. That would explain why Jiyai Shin was smiles ahead of the rest of the field.
Her countenance reflects her restored health that has her playing like the best player in the world she once was not so long ago. Shin, 24, won by nine strokes, shattering the record for margin of victory in a Women's British Open, and did so with a triple-bogey on the opening hole of a final round played on a cold, wet and windy day at England's Royal Liverpool Golf Club, hard by the Irish Sea.
"This is just what you expect, isn't it, from a British Open?" ESPN's Jane Crafter said of the weather. "This is what it's supposed to be like."
This is just what you expect from Shin, as well, this South Korean star who was No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings for 16 weeks just two years ago, occupying the interim between Lorena Ochoa's retirement and Yani Tseng's emergence.
This was her second straight victory following nearly two years among the also-rans and delivers a stern message to the nine players that had been ahead of her in the rankings at the outset of the week: She's not only back, but she might be better than ever.
The final round resembled a victory lap, if only one were crazy enough to take a victory lap while holding an umbrella parallel to the ground to counter the horizontal rain. Shin's own umbrella was turned inside out by the wind at one point, which only evoked another smile.
Thirty-six holes were played on Sunday, doubling the length of the slog (though the weather was better in the morning). And the nastiness in which the final round was played suggested universal misery. "My best guess was two, three under might win," Judy Rankin told the ESPN television audience. "Never saw double digits. Never thought of it."
Shin began the final round at 10-under par, then opened with a triple-bogey 7 that seemed to have confirmed Rankin's suspicions. Instead, Shin proceeded unfazed, a product no doubt of the confidence with which she is playing in a year interrupted by hand surgery in May. A week earlier, Shin had a round of 62 and four rounds in the 60s in winning the Kingsmill Championship, and she had an eight-under par 64 in the second round here.
She is known in Korea as the Queen of the Final Round and played up to her reputation at Royal Liverpool, methodically widening her lead, getting to the double digits (10-under) to which Rankin alluded, before settling on a round of one-over par 73 and a 72-hole score of nine-under 279.
The victory was her 10th on the LPGA and second major championship (she won the Women's British Open at Sunningdale Golf Club in 2008), and was an artful demonstration of what is meant by weathering the storm.
"If there's nae wind, it's nae golf," the Scots like to say of the game as they perceive it is supposed to be played in the United Kingdom. There was wind and it was golf, the latter played at a remarkably high level considering the elements, by one who has reclaimed her place among the best players in the world.
(Photo by Getty Images)