Natalie Gulbis starts hot, but can’t close on first victory

mulligan, 16 July 2006, Comments Off on Natalie Gulbis starts hot, but can’t close on first victory
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Painful. I slit my thumb chopping an onion while watching the playoff between Natalie Gulbis and Mi Hyun Kim. That, along with the onion and Natalie’s as-close-to-victory-as-you-can-get, almost made me cry.

The ESPN2 coverage started out when Natalie was on fire. Decked out in her orange Adidas outfit (fitting for Cleveland Browns fans in Northern Ohio), Natalie shot a 29 on the front nine and pulled a 4 shot lead over Mi Hyun Kim. Natalie almost eagled No. 10, so, after settling for a tap in birdie, Natalie was 6-under for the day. As TV coverage started, Natalie was sitting pretty at -18. Mi Hyun was 3 back at that point, and the closest competitor to Nat. Frankly, I was already thinking of all the great things I would be saying on The Golf Blog about Natalie’s first victory.

But I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. Natalie shot even par for the back 9 — she was stuck at -18, while her competitors Mi Hyun and Paula Creamer started making a late charge. Nat’s speed on her putts gave her some problems on the back nine. Although she had some makeable birdie opportunities on the back, Nat seemed to be hammering her “Hammy” putter right through most of the breaks. Suddenly, Natalie had gone cold, and, at least to me, her eyes and facial expression seemed to display much more nerves on the final three holes in regulation. She played valiantly, though, saving some pressure par putts coming in.

Meanwhile, Mi Hyun birdied three straight holes to force the playoff (and could have won it on 18 but missed a makeable putt). (Paula Creamer almost made the playoff by pulling off a string of 3 straight birdies, but she also missed a makeable birdie putt on 18.) Suddenly, the momentum had shifted to Mi Hyun.

But, in the playoff, Natalie seemed to have rebounded and to be hitting the better shots. On 2 of the holes, Natalie was closer to the pin within the 10 to 15 foot range for birdie. But she could not convert with the Hammy putter. Mi Hyun drained a 20 footer to win on the third playoff hole, and Natalie’s 12 footer slided by. A disappointing loss for Natalie, but she played her heart out. Her time will come.


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