2/26/2012 5:27:36 PM
Futcher said Stanford, who won the tournament out of a four-way playoff, is
"probably the toughest competitor out here." She added that "you're not going
to find anybody that's going to grind it out harder than Angela."
Those comments aren't unique. Lots of athletes are described as gritty, as
grinders, as tough competitors, to the point where those words become cliche
and overvalued. No professional athlete could get by on skill alone, just like
no professional athlete could find success merely by having determination. In
the vast sea of athlete commentary, those comments seem like just another
But that doesn't mean they aren't true, and that's doesn't mean that mental
toughness isn't a necessary component for success. Stanford's victory this
weekend is evidence of that.
After taking a two-shot lead Thursday, Stanford managed to stay in front after
the second and third rounds, along with Futcher and Jenny Shin. She was steady
throughout those two rounds, with a combined five birdies and two bogeys. She
didn't have a lot of energy during the second round, and couldn't settle into
a rhythm during the third.
The rounds required patience, and Stanford managed to have it, even if it
wasn't easy. But her greatest tests came during Sunday's final round.
She bogeyed the first hole to fall a step behind immediately, and trailed Shin
for most of the round. She watched as world No. 1 Yani Tseng rose up to share
first place with Shin, only to fall back down the leaderboard. Stanford had a
birdie at 11 wiped out by a bogey at 12, but used a birdie at 15 to draw
within a shot of Shin heading to the 18th hole.
"My caddie has been all over me lately about grinding it out," Stanford said.
"And we talked about it last week when I didn't have a chance to win it, and
he was like, 'Well, you might as well work on it, you know. Let's grind away.'
And he just kept telling me [to] stay in it, stay in it. So really he deserves
a lot of credit, because there was more than one time today I thought I was
Nothing came easy for Stanford during the first 17 holes, but everything
changed with a storm that passed over the golf course, forcing play to be
suspended for an hour and a half with just one hole left to play.
"To sit there and have to wait and you're just looking at it, I mean it's
tough because you know it's only going to be three to five more shots,"
In Stanford's case, it turned out to be five. She had a chance to win the
tournament after a nervous Shin hit her tee shot into the woods, but missed a
five-foot par putt. Stanford tapped in for bogey and entered the playoff.
Stanford needed to summon more determination. She needed to grind some more.
Stanford said the 18th at the Tanah Merah Country Club has always been tough
for her, so the playoff format - playing that hole repeatedly until a winner
was decided - presented a challenge in itself.
But she made par on the first extra hole, when Shanshan Feng was eliminated.
Stanford parred it again on the second playoff hole, when Na Yeon Choi was
knocked out by a bogey. Then it was down to Stanford and Shin, again, playing
the 18th for the fourth time that day. Shin missed a short putt for par, while
Stanford knocked in her three-footer to win.
"It's not a hole somebody is going to birdie in a playoff. So, really, it
becomes about hitting good shots and making pars and making sure you stay in
it," Stanford said. "So that was kind of the thought process the rest of the
way is just be the last one standing."
And after three playoff holes and three pars, Stanford was the only one left.
Futcher had said that she gives Stanford a hard time for not talking or
smiling much during rounds. She chalked it up to Stanford's competitive nature
and being "out there to kick everybody's butt."
It's not like Stanford was the only player who wanted to kick people's butts
this weekend, and it's not like she was the only player to face mentally
challenging situations. But when faced with those situations, Stanford managed
to grind through them. And when it was all over, when she was holding the
champion's trophy, she was definitely smiling.