Lorena Ochoa recovered from a double bogey on the par-5 5th that dropped her to -14 by playing her last 13 holes in bogey-free -4 fashion at the Navistar Classic yesterday. The world #1's 3rd win of 2009 and 1st since April didn't come as easy as her final 4-stroke margin of victory might suggest.
Brittany Lang had closed within a single stroke of Ochoa on the front, but couldn't keep pace with her on the back. At least she finished T2 (with a charging Michelle Wie, who shot the round of the day despite exacerbating her ankle sprain on ther back 9); Sandra Gal, who was tied for the lead on the 7th tee and only 1 back after 9, shot a birdie-less 40 on the back and dropped all the way back to T11 (caught by, among other good rounds, Vicky Hurst's 67). Janice Moodie was tied for the lead with 8 holes to go, but played them in +2 (dropping to T4 with Ya Ni Tseng, who was never a factor but played well enough overall to cross the $1M mark ahead of last year's Rookie of the Year rival, Na Yeon Choi, who's still about $35K short of doing it for the 2nd-straight season). The player who denied Ochoa a win last week, Sophie Gustafson, was in a position to do it again this one, but couldn't turn it on after pulling within 2 of the lead with 8 to play. A late double bogey and bogey dropped her a shot behind Beth Bader (67) and Maria Hjorth (71) and into a tie for 8th with Allison Fouch (71) and Ji-Young Oh (72).
In all, 16 golfers ended up double digits under par this week. 14-year-old phenom Alexis Thompson wasn't one of them, as she dropped to T27/-6 after suffering her 2nd-straight 74 on the weekend. But don't feel too bad for the amateur, who missed out on close to $11K for her finish, not to mention her chance to make history as the youngest winner of an LPGA event ever. After all, 2006 Rookie of the Year Seon Hwa Lee shot a 75 on Sunday, as did U.S. Women's Open champion Inbee Park. And Laura Davies, who had a lot more at stake than Thompson--she started the day at -10 and was trying to go low and win 1 of the 2 regular events she needs to qualify for the Hall of Fame--blew up with a birdieless 43 on the front and ended up with a 78 that dropped her all the way back to T37. Golf is cruel, but Thompson will experience much more than the game's cruelty over the course of her career.
As LPGA.com noted, Ochoa's 27th career win was made all the sweeter by the fact that it was her 2nd title defense of 2009 (which puts her 2 ahead of the rest of last year's winners). La Reina is now 4th on the money list, around $400K behind Ji-Yai Shin, but only 5 points behind her in the Player of the Year race and back to #1 in scoring average (.02 ahead of Cristie Kerr). With 4 events to play, all 3 of these races remain wide open. We'll see who's ready to break from the lead pack at the end of the month in Korea!
[Update 1 (11:46 am): Nice piece by Stephanie Wei that puts Ochoa's win, Wie's T2, and Thompson's T27 in perspective--and catches you up to date on the business side of the LPGA, if you haven't been following that story that closely lately.]
[Update 2 (11:49 am): Jamie RS checks in, but it's clear his efforts have been focused on getting a new project underway. More on that soon.]
[Update 3 (11:52 am): Here's Ryan Ballengee, Bill Jempty, and Catherine Forsythe on Ochoa's win as a response to her critics in the media. Me, I would have loved to have seen it happen last Sunday (I wanted to be able to say "I told you so" to the Ochoa doubters after predicting she would shoot a 63 and finish at -25!)....]
[Update 4 (12:03 pm): I've been on the road at a conference, so haven't had much time for linkage, but now that it appears I'm taking an early lunch break, I may as well link to Ryan Ballengee's thoughts on Thompson and Wie and the possible GE-Comcast deal's potential impact on golf coverage on the telly. Oh, and Geoff Shackelford shows my initial sense that Orender was not going to be LPGA commissioner was right on target. And don't miss bangkokbobby's print/video essay on the greater impact the LPGA has on society, with a focus on charitable efforts by Jee Young Lee, Lorena Ochoa, Mi Hyun Kim, Morgan Pressel, and Cristie Kerr.]
[Update 5 (12:13 pm): Brent Kelley puts Ochoa's "quiet" season in perspective and notes that she just passed Judy Rankin and Marlene Hagge on the career LPGA victory list.]
[Update 6 (12:17 pm): Golf Babes gives me a reason to follow the LET more closely this month, as Azahara Munoz, the LPGA-Q-School-bound NCAA star, just beat Anna Nordqvist in Spain. A huge win in her pro debut. Add her to the list of college kids who may just make an immediate impact on the LPGA in 2010.]
[Update 7 (10/7/09, 5:00 am): A Korean newspaper is reporting that both Shin and Ochoa plan to play all 4 of the remaining LPGA events, noting that each has home-country advantage in 1 of them. I'd add that Ai Miyazato has home-country advantage in 1 of the 4 remaining events, as well. Here's hoping she plays in Korea, too!]