Nicole Castrale was the sixth first-time winner in eleven events this season. Three of the last four, four of the last six and five of the last eight tournaments have had a player earn their first career victory. So who’s going to win the LPGA Championship – Ai Miyazato, Sarah Lee or Natalie Gulbis?
The $390,000 check Castrale earned yesterday will vault her into the Top 5 of the money list. She was 18th going into the event. Nicole becomes the fourth automatic entry into the ADT Championship, joining Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome and Suzann Pettersen. Of those four, Pressel was the highest-ranked player (#18) in 2006.
At the 15th hole yesterday, Cristie Kerr hit her approach shot way short and forgot there was a miked camera pointed at her as she softly said “oh, f—k”. She’s no Pressel, thank goodness!
As disappointing as Ochoa’s finish was, I can’t say enough about how close she came to recovering from hitting into the hazard on the playoff hole. Her final putt rolled just past the left edge – had it dropped, they would have played on. If Castrale had also messed up that would be one thing, but Lorena nearly pulled off a miracle to keep herself alive.
I gave Angela Park the Big Surprise award (and deservedly so) but several other players had big weeks. Cristie Kerr finally played like a Top 10 player again. Christina Kim shot a 70 – the low round of the day! – to finish T7, her first Top 10 of the year. Heather Young also tied for seventh to easily beat her best week of ’07. Rookie Charlotte Mayorkas tied for 12th for a career best. And Jill McGill’s T14 was her first Top 20 of the year.
Conversely, Michelle Wie wasn’t the only Big Disappointment. Stacy Prammanasudh and Se Ri Pak missed the cut. Juli Inkster, Ai Miyazato, Brittany Lincicome and Julieta Granada made it, but didn’t enjoy the weekend either.