Monday, September 2, 2013

Safeway Classic Weekend: Suzann Pettersen Outplays a Trio of Former #1s

Suzann Pettersen followed up Friday's 63 by going 70-67 on the weekend of the Safeway Classic to get to -20, but she didn't make it easy on herself, as she went bogey-double on the par-3 2nd and bogeyed the 17th down the stretch on moving day and the 16th in the final round.  In so doing, she opened the door for a trio of former #1s to take the title.

First up was Ya Ni Tseng, who took the 3rd-round lead with an amazing 11-birdie 63 that brought her to -18.  But that was as low as she would get for the week, as she also doubled the 2nd and followed it up with 2 bogeys in a row, then made 4 more in her last 10 holes to drop all the way to T9.

Next up was Cristie Kerr, who got it to -18 with 4 holes left to play thanks to her 5 birdies in her 1st 12 holes.  But she bogeyed 15 and 18 to fall to solo 4th.

Finally, Stacy Lewis took her shot. Unlike her playing competitors, she didn't make a bogey over the entire 72 holes of the tournament.  But after getting to -17 with 10 holes to go, she made only 1 birdie coming home.  If she had been able to figure out the back, she probably would have won, as Pettersen outplayed her coming home, -9 to -5 (she also took 9 fewer putts than her American rival).

But Pettersen didn't just hold off former #1s.  Lizette Salas fired 4 rounds in the 60s, but couldn't get the ball in the hole over her final 6 holes of the week and ended up 3 shots off the pace in solo 3rd.  Pornanong Phatlum was -16 on the 8th tee on moving day, but played her final 29 holes in +4; even though she fought back to -16 by the 10th hole on Sunday, she made back-to-back bogeys on 12 and 13 and doubled 17.  Caroline Masson got it to -14 on the 4th hole of moving day, but could only go -1 over her closing 32 holes; still, her 5th-place finish put her 34 points ahead of Moriya Jutanugarn in the Rookie of the Year race.  Karrie Webb, meanwhile, got it to -15 with 11 holes to play but finished at -13.  And Ai Miyazato was -10 through her 1st 31 holes, but made 5 bogeys and a double over her next 15 holes to knock herself out of contention.

Bottom line is, though, that Pettersen has become the 4th multiple winner on the LPGA in 2013, which moves her up to #3 on the money list, in the Player of the Year race, and in the race for the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average.  Her 12th career LPGA victory moves her ahead of Ji-Yai Shin and within 3 of Ya Ni Tseng and 4 of Cristie Kerr.  Heading into the Evian Championship and the Asian swing, where she's played some of the best golf of her career, she's got an outside chance now of putting pressure on Inbee Park.  Let's see how Park responds at Evian, where she put on a putting exhibition last season that just hasn't seemed to end.

[Update 1 (1:52 am):  Here's Steve DiMeglio's final-round story.]

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