Monday, April 16, 2007

Ginn Open – Final Round

Brittany Lincicome began the final round four shots behind the leaders but only managed a 72. Which turned out to be good enough for her to win the Ginn Open by one over Lorena Ochoa. Laura Davies finished third three strokes back while Juli Inkster and Nicole Castrale tied for fourth four behind. Be forewarned – this is a rather long post, due to the complex drama that played out Sunday afternoon.

Stormy weather delayed play twice for more than two and a half hours Sunday morning. Once it had cleared around noontime, the last group of Ochoa, Davies and Lincicome finally teed off. Swirling winds approaching 40 miles an hour wrecked havoc with every shot – there were numerous times that players were forced to step away from address, especially on putts. Tee balls, approach shots and putts alike were blown sideways, long and short. On hole 8 while Davies was chipping up, you could see the grass on the hillside moving one way then changing direction 45 degrees and then changing again. Considering that all this was visible on television I can’t imagine how much the conditions mentally affected the players.

One good by-product of the Sunday morning delay – CBS went on air at 1pm with the final group playing the 4th hole. When their allotted time expired at 3pm, the coverage moved over to TGC where it was carried to the conclusion about 6pm. So we were treated to five solid hours of LPGA action – we usually don’t get that even for the majors!

The final three started out grinding. Davies parred the first seven holes while Ochoa collected two birdies and a bogey to take a one shot lead. Lincicome bogeyed seven to fall to -9 and six strokes behind. It appeared that we had a nice match-play event set up for the back nine. Davies bogeyed 8 to drop two back. Brittany started making a move with birdies at 9 and 10. Laura birded 10 to close to within one but gave it back with bogey at 11. Through hole 12 Lorena was -15, Laura was -13 and Brittany was -11. At 13, Lincicome was forced to take a penalty stroke because of an unplayable lie but she scrambled to sink a 25-footer for bogey. At the time I thought she had just put herself back out of the running, but Ochoa three-putted for double-bogey to create a tie for the lead with Davies and leave Lincicome only three back.

Davies went bogey-par (her birdie try on 15 was weak) and Ochoa went par-bogey on 14 and 15 to remain tied, but Lincicome sank a 15-footer for birdie at 14 and parred 15 to pull within one of the lead. Lorena started having problems chipping up and a short chip on 16 led to a missed par putt, dropping her into a tie for second with Brittany. Teeing off at the par-5 17th with the lead, Laura yanked it so far left she played a provisional. She found her original ball and punched out to the fairway. She flew a wedge just over the green and chipped up to within five feet. But then the Hall Of Fame gods forsook her – she missed the putt for par, then she lipped out the tap-in. It was such a shocking turn you just knew Laura’s chance to win was gone. Ochoa’s third at 17 was from about 20 yards in front of the green, but again she chipped up short so she was unable to birdie. Lincicome had mis-layed up into a fairway bunker and flew her third just over, but she chipped up nicely and saved par to head to the par-4 18th tied with Ochoa at -11, one ahead of Davies.

Brittany pulled her tee shot into the left rough, Lorena drove just barely into the right fringe, and Laura just killed her drive but the ball toppled into a fairway bunker on the left side. Lincicome made her second layup mistake in as many holes when she landed in the left rough again. Ochoa’s approach dropped into a greenside bunker. Davies chose a 2-iron to try and reach the green, but her shot pounded the lip of the bunker and plopped into another fairway bunker just a few yards ahead. Her third cleared that bunker wall but came up short of the green and when she chipped up and three-putted again, that was all she wrote. Lincicome’s third landed ten feet behind the hole. Ochoa tried punching out of the bunker and landed in the tall grass short of the green. Perhaps overcompensating for her recent short ones, Lorena chipped past the hole into the fringe. Lincicome’s par putt to win just trickled by the hole, but Ochoa’s putt (5th shot) from the fringe was never really on-line and Brittany was the winner.

You would never expect the reigning Player Of The Year to lead by two with six holes to play, and then play those last six holes in +6. I have to give Lincicome credit – she held herself together well enough over the back nine while her competitors fell apart in the terrible conditions, but she only played the back in even par and pulled off the amazing feat of winning an event by going to the final hole tied for the lead and bogeying 18 to win. As I mentioned, she did make a couple of mistakes coming in and was fighting a pull all day but her short game saved the day.

This week’s Big Surprise was Birdie Kim, who registered her first Top 10 finish (T6) since winning the US Open nearly three years ago. Juli Inkster got her first Top 10 of the year. Se Ri Pak continued her recent good play with a T6. Meena Lee was the ONLY player to break par on this Sunday, Bloody Sunday with a 71. The Big Disappointment was Morgan Pressel, who followed up her KNC win with a missed cut. Whew! That’s enough for now.

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