Beatriz Recari fired a bogey-free 66 and Paula Creamer a bogey-free 67 to finish 1-2 in the Marathon Classic today, 3 shots ahead of Lexi Thompson and Jodi Ewart Shadoff, on a day that felt very Solheim Cuppish. 8 of the top 11 finishers were American or European, with a 62 by Meena Lee vaulting her into low Korean at -9 and tied for low Asian with Lydia Ko (68) and Chie Arimura (71).
3rd-round co-leaders Recari and Creamer made it feel like match play all day, with Creamer birdieing 3, Recari 4, Creamer 5, Recari 6 and 7, and Creamer 7 to start the day. They could only manage 3 birdies between them the rest of the day, as they continued to grind out pars during the middle of the round. Recari struck first with a birdie on the par-3 14th and both players birdied the par-4 16th, so it all would come down to the closing pair of par 5s at Highland Meadows. When neither player could birdie either hole, Recari had secured her 2nd win of the season and 3rd as an LPGA member. Even as Recari was about to start her round on Thursday, I wrote in my ranking of her rookie class about her, "she's shown the ability to close the deal when she's in contention. The next step is for her to get into contention more often. The key for her is to get those putts to drop!" Well, she was under 30 putts every day, taking 3 fewer than Creamer. And she made the key one when it counted, a 4-foot par save on the 72nd hole to avoid a playoff with Creamer. The Pink Panther didn't drive the ball as accurately this week as she usually does, but she still hit a lot of greens (only So Yeon Ryu matched her and Thompson and Ewart Shadoff beat her) and did everything well but win. She's got to be considered a front-runner to deny Inbee Park her 4th-straight major in a couple of weeks.
Other notable rounds today included Stacy Lewis's 64, which vaulted her into a tie for 7th at -9, only 1 shot behind Angel Stanford (67) and Jacqui Concolino (70), Lexi's finish, which included a hole in 1 on 14 and birdies on 17 and 18, and a 66 by 5-time-winner of this event Se Ri Pak to follow on yesterday's 67. Meanwhile, it wasn't a very good week for the Koreans in the spotlight, as defending champion So Yeon Ryu got it to -10 with 8 holes to play but played them in +2, allowing Pak and Haeji Kang (67) to catch her, and world #1 Inbee Park (72) had her 4th-worst finish of the season, leaving her tied for 33rd with Na Yeon Choi (69) and Amy Yang (72).
It was, however, a very good week for Jennifer Johnson (71), whose top-10 finish was crucial in the penultimate event before the U.S. Solheim Cup team is selected, vaulting her into 9th in the points rankings. It's still all going to come down to the Women's British Open, but Gerina Piller (73, -4, T27), Lizette Salas (69, -2, T41), Morgan Pressel (75, -2, T41), and Michelle Wie (71, -1, T45) didn't do themselves any favors this week. It's highly unlikely that Johnson will make up the 61-point deficit on Brittany Lang (68, -8, T12) at St. Andrews or pass Lizette Salas in the Rolex Rankings, but she definitely made herself a front-runner for the 1st captain's pick if she fails to pass Pressel in the Rolex Rankings (or stay ahead of her--it's hard to predict who will be ranked higher tomorrow). Barring something crazy at St. Andrews, it's probably down to Piller vs. Wie for the 2nd captain's pick right now....