Another one stroke margin between Allen, Pierce
March 1, 2022 by Patrick Aubyrn in Analysis with comments
Catrina Allen won the 2022 Las Vegas Challenge with a textbook birdie on the final hole in regulation to beat Paige Pierce by one stroke. The 18th hole on the Innova Course was the site of a dramatic finish last year, too, when Pierce emerged victorious, also winning by a single stroke.
Notably, Allen has performed considerably better on the Innova Course (rounds 2 & 4) over the past two years than Pierce, averaging a 999.5 rating over four rounds versus 968.74 for Pierce. The par 5, 18th hole in particular is a score separator. Comparing their play on this hole over the last two years is instructive.
Since it was extended from 685 feet to 720 feet, and the green moved to the ridge behind the golf green, Allen has gone 4-5-5-4 (-2 cumulatively) and recorded two OB strokes, one in the final round last year and one in the second round this year. Pierce has gone 6-6-4-5 (+1 cumulatively) and recorded five OB strokes, two in each round last year and one in the final round this year.
Below is an overview of how each woman played the hole in 2021 and 2022.
- 2021, Round 2: 1) center cut fairway short of the cart path, 2) center cut fairway 100’ short of the pin, 3) approach to C1, 4) made putt from 18’ — birdie.
- 2021, Round 4: 1) cart path left 350’ from the pin, 2) OB cart path right, 3) approach to C1, 4) made putt from 20’ — par.
- 2022, Round 2: 1) OB pond right, 2) right side of the fairway, 180’ short of the pin, 3) approach to C2, 4) made putt from 36’ — par.
- 2022, Round 4: 1) center cut fairway short of the cart path, 2) center cut fairway 100’ short of the pin, 3) approach to C1, 4) made putt from 12’ — birdie.
- 2021, Round 2: 1) OB pond right, 2) OB pond left, 3) approach to C1, 4) made putt from 30’ — bogey.
- 2021, Round 4: 1) center cut fairway short of the cart path, 2) OB pond left, 3) OB greenside pond, 4) made putt from 22’ — bogey.
- 2022, Round 2: 1) right side fairway short of the cart path, 2) second shot to peninsula in the greenside pond, 3) approach to C1, 4) made putt from 11’ — birdie.
- 2022, Round 4: 1) center cut fairway short of the cart path, 2) OB greenside pond, 3) approach to C1, 4) made putt from 10’ — par.
Allen’s game plan is to play for birdie. If you compare the tape from all four rounds, her birdies in the second round in 2021 and the fourth round in 2022 are virtually carbon copies of one another. She has only deviated from her game plan once, in the final round of the 2021 LVC when she needed to make up two strokes on Pierce to force a playoff.
Allen’s drive landed on the cart path 350 feet from the pin. While sizing up her lie from afar, she watched Pierce bungle her first approach shot, finding the second pond on the left side of the fairway. Green light for Cat. She misfired.
Did the raised curb affect the angle of her run up? Did her plant foot slip ever so slightly? Did she simply lose her disc in the crosswind? Whatever the case, her second shot drifted too far right and out of bounds, skittering along the cart path parallel to the fairway and nearly hooking back in bounds pin high.
Allen’s game is predicated on her command of hyzer flip shots. As a result, she sometimes pulls her throws to the right or overturns them. She has only found OB right on the 18th hole, and both times she went out of play demonstrate this tendency. It was her most common miss this past weekend, in general.
Based on Allen’s experience in 2021 and during the second round this weekend, it appears the best game plan when locked in a close race with Pierce would be to play for birdie and wait for Pierce to make a mistake.
For her part, Pierce tends to miss left. She has never executed a successful second throw on the 18th hole at Wildhorse, finding the left pond twice and the greenside pond twice. While she carded her first birdie on the hole this past Friday, her second shot was poor. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred that approach finds the pond. Miraculously, Pierce found a tiny sliver of land jutting out into the water and was safe by inches.
The 18th hole on the Innova Course clearly beguiles Pierce. Did her past struggles influence Allen’s game plan on Sunday?
Pierce’s difficulty approaching the green on the final hole at Wildhorse is reminiscent of another significant ender: hole 18 at The Fort. There, Allen knew Pierce had carded double bogey in rounds one and three. Trailing by one, she knew her chances were good if she could score par or better.
After landing her drive safely in bounds, navigating over the water and through the trees, Allen proceeded to throw the shot of the year: a huge, gutsy anhyzer that hit the green and spun to a stop atop the OB rope, safe, with a birdie look. The rest is history.
Though the stakes were certainly not as high in Vegas as they were in Utah, Allen must have known that a birdie was good and that the pressure was on Pierce to stay error free.
Pierce couldn’t stay clean. She threw a virtual carbon copy of Friday’s errant approach, only luck wasn’t on her side this time as she skipped OB. After her blind, hail Mary hyzer over the palms spiked into the woodchips surrounding the pin, all that was left for Allen to do was knock down a twelve-footer for birdie and the early season win.