Women's PGA Championship & Senior US Open: Golf still has the capacity to enthral by agonising proportions

By Iain CarterBBC golf correspondent
In Gee Chun and Lexi Thompson hug at the Women's PGA Championship in Maryland
Chun (left) finished one shot ahead of Thompson (right) and Australia's Minjee Lee

Winning is hard, just ask recently crowned major winners In Gee Chun and Padraig Harrington. But losing is even harder, American Lexi Thompson is lead witness to prove that point.

Dramatic conclusions at the latest women's major and the Senior US Open last Sunday demonstrated golf's continuing capacity to enthral by agonising proportions when big titles are on the line.

This despite some pretty appalling showcasing of the climax of the KPMG Women's PGA in Maryland where play overran to the extent that a TV ad break coincided with a crucial putt being struck on the 72nd green.

Another big talking point surrounding Chun's victory was that the South Korean achieved it just a week after discussing quitting the game. Now she is banking a winner's cheque of $1.35m (£1.1m).

Chun had threatened to run away with the Women's PGA, which was staged at the same Congressional Course where Rory McIlroy romped to his eight-stroke victory in the men's US Open of 2011.

Like the Northern Irishman, the eventual champion held a six-stroke advantage after dominating the first two days. But the burden of leading a major through the weekend almost proved too much as Chun recorded closing rounds of 75-75.

That opened the door for Thompson who appeared destined to take full advantage until her short game collapsed over the closing stretch of holes. She was also slapped with a slow play fine of $2,000.

Professional athletes have an obligation to speak to the media regardless of results, but this was one of those occasions where dodging questions and microphones seemed perfectly understandable.

There was an awful short par putt missed on the 14th and a shocking meltdown around the 16th green to reawaken Chun's chances.

Thompson's brilliant second to the last gave her the opportunity of a birdie that would have forced a play-off, but the putt was always shy.

Not that some American TV viewers could witness it because they were watching an advert when the putt was timidly struck. Furthermore, in some areas an on-screen advertising banner popped up to obscure Chun's winning five-footer.

Well done everybody.

The final rounds simply took too long. They were sent out in three balls over the weekend to get everyone round for an early finish so that the networks could then turn their attention to US track and field trials.

Three balls with titles on the line are always dismal. The third round in Bethesda took five hours 40 minutes which is a dreadful spectacle and no way to celebrate the landmark doubling of prize money at this event.

Not that Chun was complaining. A week earlier she had been feeling lonely and depressed and the then two-time major winner broke down in a telephone call to her sister.

"She said, 'In Gee, just quit golf. You're the important thing,'" admitted Chun about what now feels a pivotal phone call.

"When I heard what she said, I didn't want to quit the golf. Then I believe I still have a spirit, and I saw, 'In Gee, you still want to play golf.'"

And now she is all smiles, a three-times major champion. Harrington is another winner of three of the titles that matter most and he too has a grin all over his face after adding the first major crown of his veteran career.

The 50-year-old Irishman carried a five-stroke lead into the final round of the men's Senior US Open in Bethlehem, Philadelphia and although his name was never removed from the top of the leaderboard he made hard work of his triumph.

Harrington, who led by six at one stage, needed to make a succession of par saves on the closing stretch after Steve Stricker's closing 65 had moved him to nine-under-par to set a demanding victory target.

How sweet it must have been to hold off the man who orchestrated America's 19-9 thumping of Harrington's European Ryder Cup team at Whistling Straits last year.

The Irishman had started his back nine with consecutive bogies and needed to hole a 30 footer on the thirteenth to stay in front. Then came that tense finale which yielded the twice Open champion his first USGA title.

"It's tough to lead from the front," Harrington said. "It's even tougher when it's Steve Stricker behind you. He tends to have one on me. I'm happy enough to get it done in the end."

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