Sunday, May 06, 2007

SemGroup Championship – Final Round

Mi Hyun Kim parred the first playoff hole to defeat Juli Inkster and win the SemGroup Championship. It was Kim’s first win of 2007 and the eighth of her career. Ai Miyazato and Angela Stanford finished tied for third at -2 while Lorena Ochoa, Stephanie Louden, Young Kim and Reilley Rankin tied for fifth at -1.

Early on, the day appeared to belong to Inkster. Juli birdied three of the first six holes to join the leaders at -4. With winds blowing up to 25mph, the even tougher Cedar Ridge course started eroding everyone’s score. Going into the back nine, they were all looking up at Inkster. Kim birdied 11 to get to -3, joining Katherine Hull in a tie for second. Playing a couple of groups ahead, Inkster bogeyed the par-5 14th to drop into a tie for the lead. Even farther ahead at 16, Ai Miyazato made her third birdie of the day with no bogeys to create a four-way tie for first. Ai made a nice par save at 17 but was unable to do the same at 18. Still, she was the leader in the clubhouse at -2.

For a few minutes, I thought we were about to see a repeat of the Nabisco finish – a first-time winner watching at the 18th green as several players come down the stretch and fail to match her posted number. Hull bogeyed three of the last five to fall out. Inkster missed from short range on 17 to fall back to -2. Stanford rebounded from a triple-bogey at the 3rd hole to get to -2 but while she didn’t fall farther back, she couldn’t ever pick up another shot. At 16, Peanut was maybe 15 feet away with a downhill putt that broke at least two feet – it dropped in for a birdie three to give her a two shot lead with two to play. Inkster then drained one from about ten feet to birdie 18 and put a whole lot of players out of contention. Kim converted her par at 17, but then pulled her approach at 18 into a greenside bunker. From a good lie, she pitched to about five feet away. And somehow missed the putt on the right side. Playoff.

Playing 18 again, both Inkster and Kim drove the middle of the fairway. Kim’s approach rolled through to the back collar. Inkster flew to the back and rolled down the hill about 15 feet past. Juli chipped back up past the hole, leaving herself about six feet for par. Peanut lagged nicely to about two and a half. When Inkster pushed her putt to the right and Kim rolled hers in, it was over.

In several of my player rankings posts over the last few months, I have had some tough decisions to make on whether Juli Inkster or Mi Hyun Kim deserved to be ranked over the other. Even though Juli has dropped back a bit starting this year, it was rather fitting that these two should get hooked up in a playoff. Chalk one up for Peanut. I’m going to split this week’s Big Surprise Award between Stephanie Louden and Reilley Rankin. They both came out of nowhere to finish tied for fifth only two strokes out of the playoff. The Big Disappointment goes to Brittany Lincicome, who missed the cut.

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