Icher's roiling final round at Volvik serves as bon voyage for U.S. Women's Open
Ann Arbor — By the time the leaders at the Volvik Championship were heating up on the back nine Sunday, Karine Icher was cooling off.
It took a little more time than usual, and that was only partly because of the temperatures hovering around 90 degrees. The bigger reason was that Icher had just finished a blistering 7-under round of 65, the best round of the week and one shot shy of the tournament record at Travis Pointe Country.
“It's nice to play under the sun with some roll on the ball, you know, instead of to have the plugs,” Icher said. “So it was nice, it was enjoyable, the greens are perfect, so it was cool.
“I made some putts. Yesterday I missed a lot and today they went in, so that made the difference.”
It wasn’t enough to get Icher in contention after entering the final round at 2-under, 10 shots behind third-round leader Minjee Lee.
What it did do was give the 39-year-old French golfer a quality primer for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.
“It was a good warmup for U.S. Open because all the pins were really hiding on the green,” Icher said of the final round on Sunday.
What’s in store next week is tougher to determine considering the fact Hurricane Alberto could wreak havoc early in the week at Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club, which is just Southeast of Birmingham, Ala.
It’s certainly on Icher’s mind.
“The only thing, I hope we're going to be able to play a practice round because with the hurricane or the tropical storm, it's going to be again wet and pluggy,” Icher said. “So I hope the USGA's going to adapt the course to the conditions and we'll see. It's going to be the same for everybody."
What won’t be the same is the fact Icher isn’t exactly playing alone. That’s because she’s four months pregnant. It’s something she used to after playing seven months into her pregnancy with her daughter, Lola, who was born in July of 2011.
Now, she knows exactly what to expect.
“Once you pass the first trimester, it's much easier,” Icher said. “The first three months are a nightmare. Your body just adapts to the new thing you have inside. So as soon as you pass three months, and it was exactly the same for Lola, your body changes but less and less fatigue, for sure.”
Icher’s 65 was matched late in the round by Moriya Jutanugarn, who had seven birdies Sunday without a single bogey and finished two shots beyond Lee, who birdied No. 18 to earn her fourth career victory.
“When I started, pretty far behind and I just wanted to have a good day today,” Jutanugarn said. “I just, you know, promised to myself what I’m going to do and I really happy with that because I done it.”
After shooting a third-round best 66 on Saturday, things were tougher for Cheyenne Woods in the final round on Sunday.
She made up for a bogey on No. 7 by carding a birdie at the eighth, but that was it — until the 18th. That’s when Woods eagled the par-5 to finish 8-under for the tournament.
“I didn't feel like I could really get anything going all day,” Woods said. “Up until the 18th hole I had one bogey, one birdie. I felt like I hit almost every green and I just couldn't get them to fall. So my caddie reminded me to stay patient and I did, and the putt finally fell on 18 and got me two shots."
Up and down would be the best way to describe the final round for Stacy Lewis, who played in the final group with Lee and entered Sunday just two shots back.
She put pressure on the leader with three birdies in the first six holes, but back-to-back bogeys slowed her momentum. Lewis got going again with three birdies from Nos. 11-14 but a double-bogey at 17 followed by a bogey at 18 left her five shots off the pace.
“It will be a little bit tough (to bounce back), but just got to think of all the good stuff I did this week,” Lewis said. “Hit it a lot better than I have really the last month or so. Just try to build off of it and know we're going to a golf course where par matters and I'm excited about that.”
The victory was Lee’s fourth career LPGA victory and is fourth-most among Australian players on the LPGA All-Time Winners list, behind Karrie Webb (41), Jan Stephenson (16) and Rachel Hetherington (eight)
… Lee is the 13th different winner on the LPGA Tour in 2018. In 2017, the Tour did not have its first repeat winner until the 16th tournament.
… Lee receives the final winner’s exemption into next week’s U.S. Women’s Open, though she was already exempt into the championship by virtue of being in the top 75 of the 2017 LPGA Money List.