Catriona Matthew missed more than her share of fairways Sunday at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's. Catriona Matthew misses fairways but notches a home win at the 2009 Ricoh Women's British Open

Anyone looking back at the final scores of the 2009 Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's will almost certainly come to the wrong conclusion that this was a comfortable three-shot win for Catriona Matthew. It was anything but as the seemingly imperturbable Scot struggled to hit a fairway throughout the final round and was only rescued by some superb recovery shots and a bunch of astonishing long putts.

After a nervy start, Matthew's three-shot overnight lead soon evaporated in the wind and the sun. By the turn, a succession of challengers led by Ai Mizyazato of Japan threatened to spoil the party that will surely follow this home victory. But one by one the challengers fell away and the 39-year-old Scot rallied bravely to re-establish her lead and played the last few holes knowing that she only needed to avoid disaster to clinch her first major championship.

"And I came here just hoping to make the cut," Matthew said.

After a start that was uncomfortably reminiscent of Saturday's, the mother of two scrambled her way around the course but was seemingly struggling to hold it all together, and players in front such as Karrie Webb and Paula Creamer began to believe that they were in with a serious chance.

Rarely does a bogey provide impetus but Matthew rescued her score when, after hitting her approach into a gorse bush at 10 and taking a penalty drop, she heroically got up and down for a 5 that left her still in red figures and in a share of the lead with Ai Miyazato. That seemed to give Matthew a lift. At 13 she missed the fairway yet again but produced another brilliant recovery shot out of the punishing rough that somehow found the green and she proceeded to drain an 18-footer.

An even longer putt of 40 feet followed at the next and by the time she had birdied her third hole in a row at 15, after what she later described as, "the two best shots I hit all day," the championship, which had appeared to be slipping slowly from her grasp, seemed once again Matthew's to win or lose.

Her triumph was undoubtedly assisted by the misfortune and mistakes of others. Christina Kim, whom Matthew described as being "a very supportive playing partner," slipped behind early on with bogeys at three of the first five holes. Never one, however, to get too downhearted, Kim clawed her way back into contention with birdies on the eighth and 12th holes. But her challenge came to nothing and it was left to others to try and tear the title from Matthew's grip.

Charges by Webb, Creamer come up short

Two of the more seasoned campaigners emerged out of the pack. Perhaps the most improbable was Karrie Webb. The seven-time major winner could surely not have fancied her chances when she teed off seven groups in front of the leaders and eight shots behind. She played magnificently, however, and turned back the clock with an unending succession of great shots. An eagle 3 at 15 followed by a birdie at 16 put her level overall. Sadly for Webb, she couldn't muster any more birdies but, nevertheless, her level par target looked for a while as if it might be good enough. In the end, only Matthew beat it.

Another improbable challenge came from Paula Creamer, who began the day six shots adrift of Matthew. What for a time looked like developing into a serious threat to the struggling Matthew finally came to grief up the last when an impossible lie in a fairway bunker contributed to a double bogey 6. So Creamer had to settle for a share of third alongside Ai Miyazato, Christina Kim and Hee-Won Han.

Fancied by many to become only the third woman to mount a successful defense of the Ricoh Women's British Open title, Jiyai Shin of Korea never really got out of first gear, carded a 75 and finished 3-over for the championship.

A home win put the seal on what has undoubtedly been a superb championship and the large number of fans who cheerily left the course at the end of play are already looking forward to the 2010 Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Birkdale next year.

August 3, 2009

Although in his 60s, with a handicap of 15 and lifetime earnings comfortably below $100, Clive Agran nevertheless still believes he can win a major. Arguably England's most gifted golf writer, when not dreaming of glory he's scouring the globe simultaneously searching for lost balls and great golf courses. Follow Clive on Twitter at @cliveagran.

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