AUGUSTA, Ga. – With her tee shot duck-hooking towards the left timber on the 13th hole, Rose Zhang squinted and noticed her ball drop. Where precisely, she wasn’t certain – possibly within the second minimize, or within the creek, or among the many azaleas. But it was there, someplace.
“There was a white speck that I saw drop into the hazard,” she stated, “but no one identified it. Not even television.”
“There wasn’t a spotter down the left side,” stated her caddie, Josh Loyo. “Can you believe that?”
After a quick search and a prolonged dialogue with a guidelines official, Zhang’s tee shot was deemed misplaced, sending her again to the tee and creating chaos on the leaderboard at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
Trailing by one heading into the ultimate leg of Amen Corner, Zhang nonetheless had the center of the course to play when her title probabilities unraveled on the reachable par 5. After her re-tee discovered the fitting facet, she confronted the “momentous decision” that has been eradicated for therefore many long-hitting males. From a sidehill lie, Zhang had 202 yards to cowl the entrance fringe of the inexperienced, 225 yards to the pin.
“I wanted to lay up,” Loyo stated, “but she was pretty content going after it.”
Zhang carries her 3-wood about 210 yards – with the hole taking part in barely into the wind, it will have required a near-perfect strike to cowl. This time, it didn’t, kicking again into the water, main to one other drop and a momentum-crushing triple-bogey 8.
“One bad shot cost us, man,” Loyo stated. “That was it.”
“It was the first eventful hole I’ve had in a while,” Zhang stated. “So it was not a pretty hole.”
Normally regular, with impeccable course administration, Zhang couldn’t even keep in mind her final triple bogey.
“I can’t, honestly,” she stated. “It was not fun.”
The errors despatched her crashing down the leaderboard, but a wild sequence of occasions over the ultimate hour – her bounce-back birdie on 14, then a number of blunders by the leaders – gave Zhang one other likelihood to change into the second consecutive world No. 1 to seize the ANWA title. Instead, she three-putted from the again edge on 17 and misinterpret a 12-footer on the ultimate inexperienced, lacking out on the two-person playoff, ultimately gained by Tsubasa Kajitani, by a stroke after a closing 75.
“My biggest takeaway is just being able to stay in the mix and really allow myself to enjoy every moment out on this golf course,” Zhang stated. “Everyone playing was in contention basically, and to handle the pressure of being on TV and playing at Augusta National, I think says a lot. I have a lot to work on, and I think that if I keep in my stride, I’m still able to improve even more.”
That’s a daunting thought for the remainder of the highest girls’s amateurs.
Less than two months from graduating highschool, Zhang has gained just about all the pieces, at each stage, over the previous few years. Apparently uninterested in trouncing the highest juniors on the AJGA, she beat the defending champion to hoist the U.S. Women’s Amateur trophy final summer time. Just a few months later, she tied for 11th at the ANA Inspiration. Despite a throbbing left wrist, she nonetheless made the minimize at the U.S. Women’s Open after which, following a three-month break, misplaced in a playoff just lately at her first Symetra Tour occasion. Little surprise three faculty golf coaches stated that week that Zhang, at 17, was the perfect they’d ever seen at this age.
“She takes care of the controlables,” stated Stanford coach Anne Walker, for whom Zhang has dedicated to play this fall. “She works unbelievably hard. Yeah, every kid works hard, and that’s the same at the LPGA level. But then there’s the handful that outdo those people, and she falls in that category. She’s the most prepared player in the field every time she tees it up. She doesn’t have the best outcome every week, but most times she does.”
And that’s what annoyed Zhang most on Saturday: the course-management errors. Her fourth shot into the 13th instantly comes to thoughts, but she and Loyo additionally miscalculated her method on the 17th hole, choosing a 9-iron from 130 yards, although an method lengthy of the flag would hit on the downslope and shoot to the again of the inexperienced.
“I do have a lot to learn,” she stated. “For this event, I could have played a lot better. There were a lot of small things that I really want to work on when I get back, so hopefully I’ll just be able to take some notes and then come back even stronger.”
It’s price nothing right here that Zhang wasn’t despondent after lacking the makeable birdie putt on the ultimate inexperienced to be a part of the playoff. In truth, as soon as she emerged from the scoring constructing, she was smiling. Asked the place that perspective comes from at such a younger age, she stated: “I just think sometimes you can’t really be too hard on yourself, especially if you are on the greatest stage of amateur golf. This is Augusta National. I think it’s our responsibility to just be excited and happy to be on this golf course and to be able to be in contention.”
How she carried out this week – she was tied for the lead heading into the ultimate spherical, shot 75 and shared third – will do little to silence the questions on whether or not she’s prepared to flip skilled. She was the category of an ANWA discipline that introduced collectively the highest amateurs on the planet. She’s arguably the perfect American junior of the previous decade, if not longer.
“I have a lot of maturing to do (first),” she stated. “I just think that college is the place where I’ll be able to play even better, shoot better scores and mature as a person and player.
“For now, I don’t really have any intention of turning professional. But when I’m ready, I think I will know it.”
Walker first noticed Zhang play at the 2016 AJGA Polo Junior, when she was simply 13. It took all of 1 shot for Walker to be hooked. “It was like, OK, she’s good. I think I’ll watch her the rest of the week,” she stated, laughing. “She’s been on a very consistent, upward trajectory ever since. She hasn’t hit any speed bumps.”
Walker wasn’t involved about Zhang becoming a member of the play-for-pay ranks too early, both. Whether it’s Annika Sorenstam or Tiger Woods or Dustin Johnson, all the greats of the previous quarter-century understood the worth of – and the necessity for – dominating their present competitors, then transferring on.
“They were comfortable enough in their own shoes to know that they’re going to play it for life, so they continued to learn,” Walker stated. “I can see Rose being a lifelong learner.”
Especially after such a beneficial expertise at the ANWA.
“It’s Rose,” stated Loyo, her caddie. “She’ll come back next time and be in contention again.”