Saturday, April 20, 2013

LPGA LOTTE Championship Saturday: Lizette Salas Fires 62 to Force Playoff with Suzann Pettersen; Pettersen Prevails

Wow!  There were more great rounds than you could shake a stick at today at the LPGA LOTTE Championship, but in the end it came down to the two players who put together the very best of the day.  

Sure, a number of golfers beat or matched Suzann Pettersen's final-round 67, her 4th round in the 60s of the week, but few of them were near the final pairing of the day, and very few of them had to deal with playing partners who put together 8 bogeys and a double as Hee Kyung Seo (75) and Ai Miyazato (72) did.  And certainly none of them went as low as Lizette Salas, who opened with 2 birdies in her 1st 3 holes but fell back to -10 for the week after a bogey on the par-5 5th left her 5 shots behind Pettersen.  So what did she do after that but birdie the last 2 holes on the front, eagle the par-4 10th, and follow that up with 5 birdies in a row between the 12th and 16th holes (comprising 2 par 5s, 2 par 3s, and 1 par 4)?  Sure, she could "only" par out from there to go 33-29, but she was sitting pretty in the clubhouse at -19, waiting to see how Pettersen would handle the pressure she had put on her.  Pettersen, who was playing right behind Salas's group, must have known exactly where she stood, as she followed up her 2nd bogey of the day, this one on the par-5 13th, with 3 birdies in her next 4 holes to get to -20 as she teed it up on the final hole.  But she bogeyed the par 4 and had to go right back out to the 18th tee again for the playoff with Salas.

My regular readers know how much I hate to say I told you so, but, man, I told you so:  was this or was this not "one of the most compelling Saturday finishes ever on any tour," or what?  Yes, the playoff was a bit of an anticlimax, as Salas doubled 18 while Pettersen parred it for her 11th career LPGA victory and 2nd of 2013 (the other was on the LET).  But consider how many players either continued their hot play or signalled that their games are rounding into shape this spring:

  • World #1 Inbee Park's 6-birdie 67 (her 2nd 67 in a row) was good enough to leapfrog her to T4 at -13 and extend her lead in the Rolex Rankings on Stacy Lewis, who couldn't bounce back from a double and 2 bogeys today and had to settle for a T9 finish.
  • In-Kyung Kim fired a bogey-free 65 to join Park at T4 and Na Yeon Choi bounced back from 2 early bogeys with 8 birdies over her last 15 holes to go 67-66 over the weekend and catch Miyazato and Jessica Korda (69) at -11, good enough for a tie for 6th.  And they did this playing alongside living legend Se Ri Pak, who unfortunately had a cold round and fell from T12 to T28.
  • Shanshan Feng matched Kim's bogey-free 65 to post her 1st top 10 since her 1st event of the year.
  • Ariya Jutanugarn, Hyo Joo Kim, and Lydia Ko showed they are ready to make a huge impact when they join the LPGA.  Jutanugarn's 66 put her alone in 3rd at -15, Ko's 66 featured a 31 on the back and pulled her into a tie for 9th at -10 with Kim, among many others--and Kim had 4 bogeys in her final round, with 2 coming in her last 3 holes, and still finished double digits under par for the week.
  • Paula Creamer, Azahara Munoz, Seon Hwa Lee, Haeji Kang, Karine Icher, Mo Martin, and Austin Ernst also fired 66s today, but I may be the only golf writer to take note of it, given the above!
  • And forget 67s by Karrie Webb, Caroline Hedwall, Vicky Hurst, and Christel Boeljon, much less 68s by Michelle Wie, Rebecca Lee-Bentham, and Jennifer Song....
In the end, then, I can't be too sad that my favorite golfer offset her 4 birdies with 4 bogeys today.  The way everyone else played, Ai-sama would have had to shoot a 64 to get into the playoff.  She drove the ball great, but just couldn't hit enough greens or sink enough must-make putts to really be a factor.

Hats off to Salas and Pettersen.  They played phenomenal golf and put on quite a show.  Here's hoping they face each other in many Solheim Cups to come.  And many more Saturdays--and Sundays!

[Update 1 (4/22/13, 12:02 am):  Here's's final-round recap and notes and interviews!  Check the former out for great details on the playoff and on Pettersen's bad luck on the 13th tee.... I'm off to read the latter now!]

[Update 2 (12:26 am):  Tidbits from and twitter:  Pettersen putted with her eyes closed, Salas switched back to the short putter, Park feels she validated her #1 spot, Korda injured her hand on the 17th fairway; just about every famous veteran female golfer has congratulated and encouraged Salas on twitter!]

[Update 3 (12:28 am): Great to see that Seon Hwa Lee's 66 came after a bogey on her 1st hole (the 10th)--she followed it up by going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie-par-birdie and parred her way out from there,  Maybe that 30 is just what she needed to finally return to the form that saw her win 4 times in her 1st 4 seasons on the LPGA!]


Blue Falcon said...

To answer your question "was this or was this not one of the most compelling Saturday finishes ever on any tour or what?" The answer was a resounding YES!!!!!!. I do feel bad for Lizette because she played her butt off-her words on twitter after the round-but in the end, the player who played better won. Lizette's day is coming soon, I strongly feel. Major congrats to Suzann who has also found a vein of form this season.

This is the beginning of an interesting stretch for the LPGA Tour. Counting the Lotte Championship presented by J Golf, the Tour will play seven events in the next eight weeks, culminating in the second Major of the season, the Wegman's LPGA Championship in June. This is turning out to be a heck of a season.

Footnote: with her 2nd place finish and Jessica Korda's t-6 in this event, both Salas and Korda knock Brittany Lang out of the top 8 in the U.S. Solheim Cup points race. (Lang would still make the team if the selection were today, as she is the next highest ranked American player in the in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings.

The Constructivist said...

Thanks for the comment! As much as I enjoyed the periods of Ochoa's and Tseng's dominance, I really enjoyed that stretch when half a dozen players were fighting it out every week for the top spot in the world. Feels like we're back there now, except even better because there are so many up-and-comers playing great golf as well!!