Monday, March 23, 2009

MasterCard Classic Sunday: Pat Hurst Beats Tseng and Ochoa with Walkoff Birdie

Once again, holding onto the lead proved impossible on the LPGA but not so much on the JLPGA. This time, it was Ya Ni Tseng who was the victim at the MasterCard Classic and Ayako Uehara the victor at the Yokohama PRGR Ladies Cup. True, Uehara never had to defend her 5-shot lead on Sunday--the final round was called off due to inclement weather--and Tseng had to try to hold off charges by Song-Hee Kim (4 birdies in her final 7 holes to get to -8), Lorena Ochoa (ditto to get to -9), and Pat Hurst (who twice bounced back from 2-shot deficits on the back 9 with 4 birdies in her last 8 holes). But Tseng definitely had her fate in her hands, with a 1-shot lead on Hurst and Ochoa heading into the final hole, a par 5 she had birdied on Friday and parred on Saturday. As and Hound Dog describe, however, Tseng was due for disappointment on her 2nd Sunday in a row at Bosque Real. A final-hole 3-putt from 30 feet opened the door for Hurst to avoid a playoff with Tseng and Ochoa (who had missed an eagle chance from roughly the same distance as Tseng's par-saver just minutes earlier), and she canned the 10-footer to get to -10 for the 1st time since she finished double bogey-bogey-bogey the day before. Whereas Tseng couldn't hang onto that elusive 2nd career win--yesterday was her 5th career 2nd-place finish and 3rd since winning the LPGA Championship--Hurst's pressure putt earned her the 6th win of her storied career and 1st since 2006.

As I predicted, there were lots of ups and downs all week at Bosque Real, and Sunday was no exception. Cristie Kerr, who fired the best round of the day yesterday, a 67, had to bounce back from a bogey late on each side. Eun-Hee Ji needed birdies on the last 2 holes (like Hurst and Ochoa) to fight back into the top 10. 2nd-round co-leader Na Yeon Choi, meanwhile, bogeyed more holes on Sunday than she had the previous 2 days combined, but was still able to hang on for a T6 finish. That's because many others plummeted out of contention. Suzann Pettersen was +2 over her final 5 holes, but at least she stayed in the top 10. Grace Park sandwiched a trio of double bogeys between pairs of birdies in the middle of her round to fall from -5 to +1 and bounce back to -1, T12 with Sun Young Yoo, whose Sunday struggles continued with a 75 yesterday. Se Ri Pak was +5 ver her final 10 holes to fall back to E and T16, while Jane Park and Brittany Lang made big numbers and multiple bogeys on their ways to 75s that dropped them all the way to +1 and T22.

So Tseng shouldn't feel too bad about her 70 yesterday. Expect her to bounce back fast next week. But Hurst's closing 68 is even more impressive in this context. Congrats to her, to Vicky Hurst (low rookie), and to Katie Futcher (whose 68 vaulted her into the top 10 for the 1st time since the State Farm Classic last July).

[Update 1 (12:45 pm): Here's Hound Dog's epilogue.]

[Update 2 (3/25/09, 12:49 am): Wouldn't it be cool if Hurst makes my pre-season comment look very good?]

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