During a extended day of play due to a weather delay, Rose Zhang came back from an early double-bogey to win the ANWA on the second play-off hole

As expected, the final round of the ANWA at Augusta National Golf Club did not disappoint. It is a course that has been the undoing of many great golfers over the years. As world number one amateur Rose Zhang took to the first tee, she knew that even though she had a five shot lead, it wasn’t necessarily enough to guarantee victory.

“To be fair, I felt like the advantage disappeared after hole one. I just knew that on this golf course a five-shot lead is not enough. A ten-shot lead is not enough. Every single hole mattered.”

A double bogey to get her round started set the tone for the first seven holes, a birdie followed on the second but bogeys at four, five and seven meant that she headed into an extended weather suspension already four-over-par for her round.

The 19-year-old had three and a half hours to get her thoughts together as stormy weather came through Augusta National.

It’s safe to say that as a spectator, even when Zhang returned to the course, she didn’t look as comfortable as she had during the first two rounds at Champions Retreat.

Georgia native Jenny Bae came into contention

Whilst the Stanford Sophomore struggled with her swing, Georgia native Jenny Bae came out from the weather delay and seemed to find the measure of the challenging course. Birdies on nine, thirteen and crucially on 17 meant that she held the clubhouse lead as Zhang approached the last hole.

A grip change on the 13th hole was a turning moment for Zhang, where she went on to find a her second birdie of the round. However, a thinned shot on the approach to the 15th hole saw her ball end in the water and feelings that this illusive title may be out of reach again.

Onto a play-off

Remaining composed, Zhang parred the final three holes to force a play-off with Bae. They went back down 18 and both parred the hole. It was then onto 10 where Bae made one of her very few errors of the day ending up left of the green hitting off the pine straw. Zhang was on the green for two, whilst Bae then needed to hit out of the back bunker. A par was enough for American Zhang to take home the coveted amateur title.

During the press conference following her victory, Zhang said:

“I feel like it's always difficult to have such a big lead, especially on such a prestigious stage. When things matter the most and you have a big lead but the job's not done, it definitely puts a lot of things into perspective.

“I tried to stay as composed as possible, but at the same time, I was a little tight the first couple holes. I just felt like my swing wasn't comfortable, and I really just tried to stay in the moment.

“I figured out a little trigger point in my golf swing, and from then on, it was kind of smooth sailing, grinding from there.

“You could easily triple any hole on this golf course. So with a little up and down, plus negative, your lead is immediately cut short.”

"A whole other level of prestige"

Referencing the status of Augusta National:

“It's difficult to say, but the entire atmosphere of Augusta National is just a whole other level of prestige. I realize that, and I think I keep that in the back of my mind.

“I really, really do love this golf course. Sometimes it's just interesting that I never really get my A game when I'm out here. When I was out at Champions it felt so easy to me. Everything just came to me. I was making putts. I was hitting greens. But when you're out here, one mistake, like I said before, is magnified.

“The beginning of this week has been pretty crazy already with different press interviews, a lot of expectations on me, and I had a lot of expectations on myself. To overcome everything, I'm just super grateful to be here.”

A true and worthy champion who at the end of the day showed that she is human and that the occasion, expectation and location can have a massive impact on the very best players in the world. I’m sure nothing will be different as the men take to the course to battle it out for the coveted green jacket next week.

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