American Lizette Salas admitted on Saturday evening that the nerves were getting to her late in the third round and unfortunately her worst fears were realised on Sunday when she failed to maintain her two-stroke lead.
The Californian described her final round 5-over 78 at the 2017 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open as “pretty bad”, Salas surrendering her 54-hole buffer early on Sunday as she hunted a second LPGA Tour crown.
A bogey on the first and another two, back-to-back on the 5th and 6th holes no less, saw Salas cough up her advantage as the wind brought the leaders back to the field.
But in a frantic finish Salas manoeuvred her way back to a three-stroke buffer shortly after making the turn, before South Korean Ha Na Jang stole the show at Royal Adelaide with an incredible late charge to win by three shots.
“I’m just going to say it’s disappointing,” said a visibly emotional Salas.
“I don’t really have any other words.
“I stayed patient, I wasn’t dramatic, I wasn’t trying to force anything.
“My ball just didn’t find the ball today. I had some bad swings that cost me. I just couldn’t find a rhythm.”
As of Saturday evening the Patricia Bridges Bowl was Salas’ to lose and her dreams looked dashed before two straight birdies on the 9th and 10th holes.
But the resulting three shot-lead proved too much of a burden for the 27-year-old to bear, three straight bogies coming from the 12th onwards – including three-putts at 13 and 14 – to effectively end her week.
“I was aware that I was a couple in front,” said Salas.
“This course is so tough that it can bite you in the butt at any instant and that’s exactly what it did to me today.
“I didn’t pick the right clubs coming down the stretch, I just wasn’t playing smart today. Next time.”
“After those two birdies in a row I thought I had my rhythm back, but three-putting is not going to win a tournament.
“To have to back-to-back three-putts was pretty disturbing.”
Salas’ fate was sealed when now three-time LPGA Tour winner Jang jammed home a curling eagle putt up ahead on 17, the American conceding she hadn’t done enough on Sunday to be crowned champion.
“Ha Na played great today and you expect your competitors to play great on Sunday and that’s what she did,” said Salas.
“I wanted to win obviously, but I think this is something that happens to me for a reason and I think it’s just going to push me even harder.
“I’ll be back, for sure.”