Women's World Cup
February 11-13 2005
Japan prevail in survival of the fittest at Fancourt
(George, South Africa ? February 13 2005) Japan has won the inaugural Women’s World Cup of Golf. But the youngest pair in this inaugural $1million event did not make life easy for themselves and avoided a dramatic collapse as they stumbled through the back nine of The Links course at Fancourt Hotel and Country Club Estate.
In a day of scintillating twists, turns and ups and downs with birdies, bogeys and double bogeys aplenty around this treacherous Gary Player designed course, 23-year-old Rui Kitada and 19-year-old Ai Miyazato eventually posted a total of three under par after the final round of combined singles.
They finished two shots clear of Jennifer Rosales and Dorothy Delasin from The Philippines and the Korean pair of Jeong Jang and Bo Bae Song.
Japan started the day tied for the lead with Scotland on six under par and despite Miyazato carding a front nine five under 31 on her own ball and adding a further birdie at the tenth to help forge a five shot lead over Korea and the Italians Diana Luna and Giulia Sergas, the Japanese stuttered and stumbled and their lead narrowed rapidly.
With a format requiring both scores to count towards the total and the pressure on and a $200,000 winner’s cheque on the line, it was Japan’s Kitada who began to crumble when the pair were seemingly in control.
After a double bogey at the 11th, bogeys at the 12th and 14th followed up by another double bogey at the 15th, it was all going wrong for Kitada. But her partner pushed on with steely determination.
However, no other team capitalised as opportunities came and went for many teams. Italy dropped out of contention in sad circumstances when Luna and Sergas both racked up triple bogeys on the 15th and the Koreans also dropped two shots at the 15th hole.
The rest of the field were given a glimmer of hope and with two par fives and a devilish par three 17th to come, it was anybody’s guess whom the winners might be.
Catriona Matthew and Janice Moodie from Scotland, who had squandered their overnight share of the lead, were back in contention at level par and even England, who were ten over par for the front nine alone, rallied on the inward nine and needed a good finish to put the pressure on. It was not to be as Laura Davies and Karen Stupples failed the hole out when it mattered most.
With the pressure mounting, Miyazato, who won five times on the JLPGA Tour and racked up 16 top-tens to earn over $1million in her rookie season in 2004, squandered a three foot birdie putt at the 16th. And adding to the increasing drama, Kitada then missed a putt measured at no more than 18 inches to drop another shot ? They were now tied with Korea and The Philippines who were in the clubhouse on one under par.
But while it was all going wrong for just about everyone on this 6402-yard brute of a course, it was the diminutive pair from the Land of the Rising Sun who sealed the title with a brace of birdies at the 17th.
Kitada ended her six-hole nightmare with a fabulous putt from 20 feet, denying her partner all the glory. And when Miyazato rolled in a five footer on top of it, they both breathed an awful lot easier heading up the last hole, which they parred.
“The putt at the 17th was the biggest putt of my career,” admitted Kitada, who could not hold off the tears of relief and joy at becoming a World Cup winner.
“It was very difficult for me out there today and I felt that I was dragging my partner back on the back nine. That putt saved me and my team.”
Miyazato, who at just 18-years-old and arguably the biggest sports star in Japan, admitted that her front nine was one of her best ever in her short, yet productive career.
“That’s probably the best front nine I have ever played under pressure,” said Miyazato, who carded the low round of the day, a six under 67.
“I didn’t feel any pressure as Rui was not playing her best and I was trying to help her out and concentrate on my own game. When she was down, I just brought myself up.
“This means so much to us and to our country and we are both very happy. We came here thinking we wanted to win it, and now we have, it is a great feeling.”
Along with the $100,000 each for the victory, Miyazato and Kitada received their trophy from World number three and South Africa’s most successful son, Ernie Els. The 6’4” giant dwarfed the newest stars of women’s World golf, but he knows that their heart, courage and will to win are every bit as big as his.
Women’s World Cup of Golf
Position Name Score (four-ball, foursomes, combined stroke-play)
1. Japan 68-72-149=289 (-3)
T2. Korea 74-68-149=291 (-1)
Philippines 68-77-146=291 (-1)
4. Scotland 71-69-152=292 (E)
5. Australia 68-75-151=294 (+2)
T6. Wales 70-74-151=295 (+3)
Canada 66-79-150=295 (+3)
8. Mexico 69-78-149=296 (+4)
9. England 69-74-154=297 (+5)
T10. Italy 66-75-157=298 (+6)
Spain 71-79-148=298 (+6)
12. South Africa 73-75-151=299 (+7)
13. Finland 71-77-152=300 (+8)
14. United States 69-74-158=301 (+9)
15. France 73-77-154=304 (+12)
16. Sweden 68-79-158=305 (+13)
17. Malaysia 74-79-157=310 (+18)
18. New Zealand 72-78- 164=314 (+22)
19. Germany 72-88-161=321 (+29)
20. Austria 74-81-170=325 (+33)