Lorena Ochoa posted a 68 – her fourth straight round in the 60s – to win the Sybase Classic Presented by Shoprite. It is the second victory of the year for Ochoa and the eleventh of her career. Sarah Lee finished three shots back at -15 after struggling to a 73. Se Ri Pak came in third at -9 while Brittany Lang and Juli Inkster finished tied for fourth at -8.
The final twosome were within two shots of each other nearly all day, but I would be exaggerating if I called this a “shootout” or “duel” or one of those other popular adjectives used to describe tense competitions. Neither player got out of the blocks like they did Saturday. Through seven holes Lee was +1 – her approach at 2 ricocheted off the pin and off the green, resulting in an unlucky bogey – and Ochoa was -1 with a birdie at 5 after an outstanding recovery from the left rough. This left them tied at -15. Ochoa birdied 8 and 9 to take a two shot lead and it stayed that way literally until they reached 18. Both players birdied the par-5 11th, Lee after an outstanding bunker shot to three feet. Over the next six holes, Sarah was closer to the pin every single time but she never could put the ball in the hole to put any pressure on Lorena. The first couple of tries were weakly struck – especially a 15-footer at the 13th – and when she seemed to realize that she had nothing to lose (third place was six shots behind her at the time), she started hitting them harder but now her line was off. The epitome was her miss at 16 – she was only four feet away, but the ball slid just left. Lee completely mis-read her 12-footer at 17, missing it at least 18 inches to the left.
Even so, when Lorena lost her tee shot at 18 into the right rough, Sarah still had an outside chance. Until she lost hers into an even worse spot down the right side. Lee tried to make the impossible shot through the trees and thick rough but only advanced about 80 yards, and then completely slammed the door (with her fingers in it) when she dropped her third into the water. Ochoa recovered nicely and two-putted for par, sparking the champagne celebration.
I will not be saying that Sarah Lee doesn’t have what it takes to win. On the contrary, the last several weeks have shown she certainly has the talent to do so. She isn’t the first player to play this well over a two-week stretch and come up empty on Sunday. The key will be if she learns from this disappointment like she did from her Kingsmill one – I believe she will be just fine. Of course I am ecstatic about Ochoa’s win. I finally snapped my losing prediction streak! Lorena looked pretty happy about it, too.
Great weeks for Se Ri Pak and Brittany Lang – Brittany really needed this Top 5 to get her back on track. This week’s Big Surprise is Kate Golden, who finished tied for sixth. Kate owns one of the Fluke Victories that I talk about occasionally, but she played well enough this week to collect only the 14th Top 10 of her 16-year career. I hate to do this again, but the Big Disappointment goes to Jeong Jang. JJ missed the cut for the second week in a row after only missing once last year and only once in 2005.