CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. (AP) – Morgan Pressel was walking up the 18th fairway, on the way to the shot that might have won her the U.S. Women’s Open. She looked up, squinted into the distance and suddenly, cruelly, she watched that dream disappear.

Just 24 hours earlier, it was Pressel who insisted that nobody remembers the person who finishes second.

On Sunday, it was little-known Birdie Kim who proved Pressel right with a spectacular chip-in from the sand with the tournament on the line.

“I know I can win,” Pressel said, her face streaked with tears. “I know I can play well. I was there the whole day. But I finished second and I’m not holding a trophy.”

On a week in which the tempestuous 17-year-old amateur alternated between entertaining, heartbreaking and downright difficult to watch, she was part of the biggest drama on the 18th hole.

Playing in the final twosome, Pressel headed to 18 knotted at 4 over with Kim, who was in the group ahead. Not a single player had made birdie there all day. After Pressel knocked her drive safely into the fairway, and with Kim bunkered 30 yards from the hole up ahead, it figured Pressel was two decent shots away from possibly a win, and almost certainly no worse than a tie and an 18-hole playoff Monday.

The plan veered off course suddenly and dramatically. As she watched Kim’s blast from the bunker drop, Pressel looked behind her, put her hands on her head in dismay and smiled.

“It was like, “I can’t believe that actually just happened,”‘ Pressel said.

Indeed, it had to have been a jolt after a round in which she played well enough to win, shooting a 4-over-par 75 to stay tied or within a shot of the lead for most of the day. With no option left but to make birdie, Pressel changed her strategy.

“I figured I had to go for the front of the green instead of the middle,” she said. “On that hole, you just kind of hit the ball and pray.”

She hit it into the rough, short of the bunker, and when she chipped her third shot out to 20 feet from the hole, the tournament was officially lost.

She flipped her wedge aside, bent down and put her hands on her knees, tore off her golf glove and slapped it on her leg.

Moments later, after a two-putt that left her tied for second at 5-over 289 with 19-year-old amateur Brittany Lang, Pressel was crying – and not for the first time during this grueling week at Cherry Hills.

“I don’t hide (my emotions) well,” she said, still in tears 30 minutes after the last shot. “I try. But I don’t hide them well, as you can see.”

Lang, meanwhile, needed both Pressel and Kim to bogey on No. 18 to get into a playoff. She was sitting on a patio close to the 18th green, watching on TV, when Kim’s shot dropped.

“I was happy with my week, so I wasn’t disappointed she made that bunker shot or how they finished up,” Lang said.

Lang was tied for the lead after the first day, fell back the next two, then shot an even-par 71 to finish tied for second. Part of Duke’s national championship team, Lang will turn pro later this summer and she has a great experience under her belt against the best in the world.

Pressel does, too, and after the emotion of the moment has subsided, she might appreciate it more.

But on Sunday, she was thinking about missed opportunities – a putt for par that barely missed on No. 4, an approach shot that wound up too short after being in perfect position on No. 14, a birdie putt that wound up one revolution short of falling on No. 16.

“I thought it would have been mine if I had made that putt,” Pressel said.

Then, there were the earlier rounds. Pressel made five birdies in her first eight holes of the tournament to get to 5 under – a number no player reached over the next four days. But after a double bogey and bogey to finish Thursday’s round at par, she was crying.

She hung in there and proved herself worthy of a championship.

Only on this day, someone else won it.

“You’d like to just toss this one off, but it’s a tough one,” said her grandfather, Herb Krickstein. “It didn’t work out, and it’s no fault of hers.”

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