The world's top-ranked amateur, Lydia Ko, will face Jaye Marie Green of Boca Raton Fla., tomorrow morning in the 36-hole match play final for the U.S. Women's Amateur trophy. In wet and windy conditions that lengthened the course, Ko defeated second-ranked amateur, Ariya Jutanugarn, while Green knocked off Canada's Nicole Zhang, 2 up.
"I am really blessed to be here. This feels like a dream," said Green after Zhang conceded the match on the 18th green after failing to make birdie and force a playoff. "It's been a really long week, I'm not even sure how long. But I'm really excited for tomorrow."
Green will have a tough opponent in Lydia Ko, who finished 17 holes today at three-under par, including birdies on her final three holes that buried Jutanugarn. "Ariya had a really good day, she put the pressure on me," said Ko, who made the cut at this year's US Women's Open. "My putting was better today than the last few days. I was able to convert my birdie chances."
Ko took the lead with a birdie on the 4th hole and never gave it up. The match was always close with Ko never having more than a 1-up advantage until the final three holes. With Jutanagarn only three feet from the hole for birdie on the par-4 15th, Ko chipped in from about 50 feet to halve the hole and remain 1 up. She then two-putted for birdie on the par-5 16th and won the 17th to end the match with a conceded birdie. The long-hitting Jutanugarn played solid golf in tough conditions, but never had a realistic chance against Ko's seven birdies.
"These conditions are more like New Zealand. I'm used to cold, wet, and rainy," said Ko, who was born in South Korea but recently became a Kiwi after completing the citizenship process. "It's my advantage to play in this weather." Ko also said that she does not enjoy playing in the American summer heat.
Jaye Marie Green hardly missed a shot in her match and finished the day with five birdies, including a concession at the last. "The conditions were tough today and the course played different than earlier this week," said a smiling Green, who was constantly putting on and taking off her rain gear during the match. "I'm just happy I didn't chunk it off the first tee," she added with a laugh.
Her father and caddy, Donnie Green, expressed his pride with the way his daughter handled herself in the difficult weather. "She relied on her routine and didn't change it," he said. "She was fully committed to every shot. I try not to get too involved out there."
Green made a crucial up-and-down par save to preserve her 2-up lead at the par-3 14th hole after Zhang hit her approach within ten feet. Green was well right of the putting surface but chipped over a bunker to within 5 feet and sank the putt for a halve after Zhang missed her birdie try. On the par-5 16th, Green's drive found a fairway bunker, forcing her to lay up while Zhang hit the green in two and eventually won the hole with a birdie. After pars halved the 17th, Green won the 18th when Zhang's chip for birdie ran well past the hole. Zhang then conceded the match.
Green and Ko have never played together before, but are each aware of the other's capabilities. "Lydia is number one in the world, so obviously she's good," said Green. "I'm just happy to have this opportunity."
"Jaye's a really good player," said Ko. "It's important for me to get off to a good start and not get too tired."
Stamina will be crucial in tomorrow's 36-hole final. The match will begin at 8:30 am with Golf Channel coverage starting at 3:00 pm Eastern.