Se Ri Pak outdueled Morgan Pressel to win the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic for the fifth time in her career. Pak becomes only the third player in LPGA history to win the same event five times. Wendy Ward, Laura Davies, Carri Wood and Laura Diaz all finished tied for third, a distant nine shots behind the winner.
With In-Kyung Kim failing to make an early run, the final group quickly moved into match-play mode. Pressel birdied #2 to climb within one, and then jumped into the lead with birdie at 4 while Pak bogeyed. Both players bogeyed 5, then lightning struck at the par-3 6th. Pressel bounced a 7-iron just to the right of the hole and the ball rolled straight in for a hole-in-one, vaulting her to -14 and a three-shot lead. Pak didn’t blink, however. She birdied 6 for the fourth straight day to stay within two, and birdies at 8 and 9 erased the rest of the deficit. They traded shots for the next few holes – each had a shot at birdie on 10 but couldn’t convert, both had knee-knockers for par at 11 which they made. At 12, Pak’s birdie try slid three feet past but she negotiated the par. At 13, Morgan seemed to gain the advantage when her approach ended up about 8 feet away. Se Ri had to play a low trajectory since she was partially blocked by a tree and rolled it all the way to the back-right of the green. She lagged nicely and tapped in her par, and Pressel’s birdie attempt just missed on the right side. Both logged somewhat routine pars at 14.
I like starting Paragraph Three on Sunday with “The Turning Point”, have you noticed? 150 yards out from the 15th pin, Pak’s approach rolled just around the hole and stopped two feet away. Pressel also played a good shot but her ball released all the way to the back of the green. Morgan lagged to about a foot and made par, but Se Ri stroked in the birdie to take the one-shot lead. At 16, Pressel blocked her approach to the right side of the green while Pak played another fine short iron to about 12 feet. Se Ri could have all but put the tournament away but left the putt short. After driving into the right rough at 17, Pak was forced to lay up with Pressel. Se Ri’s 3rd from 90 yards out stopped about five feet short. It was Morgan’s turn to not blink – she put hers inside of Pak’s, about two feet away, forcing Se Ri to make to keep the lead. Which she calmly did. Pressel tapped in and they went to 18 separated by one.
If you watched ESPN2’s coverage, you know already know about their technical difficulties on 18. Just as they were about to tee off, my satellite receiver started going out – storm clouds in my area were interfering at the worst possible time. I saw Pressel hit a wayward drive and poof! When my satellite came back, a very long string of commercials was playing. They returned with Pak playing her third into the green which she almost holed out, and Andy North told us that shot clinched the win. Terry Gannon rattled off what happened to Pressel so quickly that I couldn’t get it all down, but basically she had to punch out to the fairway then hit driver trying to reach and apparently failed. Morgan took bogey six. Se Ri birdied and won by three.
It was a pretty good duel – not riveting with multiple twists and turns, but an entertaining heads-up match with the winner posting a Sunday 67 and the loser a 68. None of the players in the other late groups could make a run, but if they were looking for a win that point was moot – they would have needed a 60 to even get close to first place. Inky Kim finished 7th after a 72. Alena Sharp ballooned to a 78 and finished even par and T28. This week’s Big Surprise is the British Open-bound Carri Wood, who collected the first Top 10 (and certainly the largest paycheck) of her 11-plus-year career. The Big Disappointment is one of the easiest choices I’ve had to make in a while – Paula Creamer missed the cut. It sure seemed strange to see the Pink Panther character walking around without Paula being nearby the last two days.