Sunday, June 03, 2007

Ginn Tribute – Final Round

Nicole Castrale parred the first playoff hole to defeat Lorena Ochoa and win the Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika. It was the first career victory for Castrale, making her the sixth first-time winner in 2007. Cristie Kerr (-6) finished three shots behind while Paula Creamer and Sarah Lee finished tied for fourth at -5.

Early in the round Ochoa had a lead of four strokes. Through ten holes, she was three up over Castrale. Hole 11 is where the tide turned. Ochoa bogeyed to fall to -10, Castrale birdied to get to -9 and Kerr (who was +2 through the first ten) dropped an eagle putt to get to -7. The wind really started picking up (shades of the Ginn Open!), occasionally reaching 30 mph. At 12 Kerr birdied from 15 feet to climb within two of the lead - two holes earlier she was six back – and then at 13 she rolled in a 4-footer to tie for second at -9. At 14 Ochoa had a 5-footer for birdie that missed while Castrale had to save par from the same distance after running her birdie try past. Ochoa seemed to re-assert herself with a birdie at 15 from 10 feet to get to -11. When Nicole missed her 7-footer for birdie and Cristie couldn’t convert her par, Lorena was up two with three to play.

Both Castrale and Kerr pulled their layup shots left at the par-5 16th. Kerr landed her third about 15 feet from the hole, but had to settle for par. Castrale’s long birdie try rolled 4 feet past and she missed the come-backer to fall to -8. Ochoa was in the middle of the fairway but pulled her third badly to the left fringe, leaving a difficult chip against the second cut. She whacked it 15 feet past the hole and wound up with bogey. Still up by two shots with two to go, but Lorena could have really sealed the deal even with a par here. At 17, Kerr was very left and very over the green. From the thick rough, she chipped short TWICE. The resulting double-bogey relegated Cristie to third place. Ochoa was on the back left edge about 30 feet away. She putted poorly underneath the hole and ended up 8 feet away, from where she missed. Nicole rolled her 15-footer dead-center for birdie and the two-shot swing gave us a tie going to 18.

Castrale’s approach landed about 15 feet from the hole. Ochoa pulled another iron shot to the back left edge and came up 4 feet short. Putting for the win, Nicole left it about 18 inches short. Ochoa converted and they went back to the 18th tee for the playoff. Playing first, Lorena drove into the left-side hazard. Dottie Pepper pointed out that her alignment was off, which was astounding when you consider that Ochoa had played that same tee shot only 20 minutes before. She took her penalty drop, then played an incredible iron shot to about 18 feet. I thought “my God, can she force another hole after putting one in a hazard?”. Castrale was on the green in two, 30 feet away. She rolled it to about a foot and tapped in for par. Lorena gave her putt a great run, but it just slid by the left edge.

The money’s been good, but I have to think Lorena might be developing a complex at these Ginn tournaments. She should have won the Open as well, but couldn’t get it done that day either. Nicole Castrale has the opposite syndrome – her best prior finish this year was T4 at the Ginn Open. If you’re going to pick two events to finish high at, it may as well be at these high-dollar ones. Despite the fact she is the leader in the ROY race, Angela Park is this week’s Big Surprise. She certainly stood out from the strong field. You probably knew late Thursday who was going to get the Big Disappointment – yep, I gotta give it to Michelle Wie.

One more thing – I am among the fortunate people who gets The Golf Channel on my satellite service. Those of you who don’t should be outraged at NBC’s decision not to carry the playoff (they signed off at 6:30 EDT), especially those of you on the West Coast. The LPGA and Ginn Resorts need to step in and do something about that decision. Hopefully, we’ll be reading a lot more about this tomorrow.

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