Date: September 17, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Kirk top Aussie as Stanford stuns

Katherine Kirk wrapped up her fourth top-10 finish in a major championship overnight as Angela Stanford was the last woman standing in a frenetic finish to the Evian Championship.

Minjee Lee was again prominent and threatened another high finish at Evian-Les-Bains, France, until a late stumble sent her crashing down the leaderboard.

But Queenslander Kirk, just one shot from a playoff at Evian last year, was again the top Aussie with her rollercoaster 69 – featuring six birdies and four bogeys – good enough for an eight-under-par total and T10 alongside such stars as Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson and So Yeon Ryu.

West Australian Lee had the day’s hottest round going at -5 and was suddenly in a share of sixth place when she birdied the long 15th, but sand issues on the 16th left her with a double-bogey and another bogey on the 18th consigned her to a 69 and a share of 16th at six under.

But the chief drama unfolded soon afterwards.

In a final round during which no fewer than seven women will feel they might have pushed for the year’s final major title, Stanford brushed aside a shoddy double-bogey five on the 16th hole to birdie the 17th hole.

But when the veteran American, in her 76th major championship, left her birdie try on the last hole hanging on the edge, her hopes seemed forlorn at 12 under.

Her compatriot Amy Olson, who’d led throughout the final round after starting two clear, needed a par up the last to win, or a bogey to force a playoff, as Mo Martin and Sei Young Kim lurked, seemingly too far back at 11 under.

But Olson felt the moment, pulling her drive left, not reaching the fairway with an attempted punch-out, then eventually ramming her long par attempt well past the hole.

Martin and then Kim both narrowly missed makeable chances to join Stanford.

And then when Olson left her bogey putt low and left, one of golf’s great fairytales was complete.

Stanford, 40, became the LPGA Tour’s second oldest first-time major winner after Faye Crocker in the 1955 US Open.

“I have no idea what just happened. I’m grateful,” Stanford said.

“I’m so happy for everybody at home. Everybody that’s always cheered for me. They never gave up on me.”