Lorena Ochoa won her third consecutive tournament by taking the Safeway Classic Presented by Pepsi. The five-stroke victory was her sixth of the season and fifteenth of her career and sets a new mark for earnings in a single season. Sophie Gustafson, Mhairi McKay, Christina Kim and In-Bee Park all finished tied for second at -7.
The foreshadowed Ochoa-Gustafson shootout actually did play out for a time over the front nine as both players stumbled out of the gate. Lorena bogeyed two of her first three as Sophie bogeyed #2, tying them at -9. That gave McKay a chance to close in, but three straight bogeys at 3, 4 and 5 knocked her back. Ochoa birdied 4, 5 and 7 to move to -12 but Gustafson countered with birdies at 5 and 7 to stay within one. Meanwhile Mhairi birdied 7, 8 and 9 to reach -8 and still have a remote chance.
Beginning at 9, Sophie’s wheels slowly began to come off. Bogey there dropped her two back, and though she birdied 10 Lorena did too. Both players had chances at the par-5 12th but failed to cash in on them. Gustafson had started to miss the fairway and get a bit erratic with her approaches, and at 14 those problems finally bit her. She drove so far right she was forced to punch out and then her third was off the green. She did manage to roll in a 15-footer to save bogey, but she was now three behind with four to play. Even worse for Sophie – McKay birdied 14 and was now only one back of second place.
Ochoa then played the last four holes in +1, but it didn’t matter – after bogeying 16, Gustafson duck-hooked her tee shot at 17, then hit a worm-burner out of the rough that reminded me of many a 3-wood shot I’ve played. She took double-bogey, but McKay had decided to make two visits to the beach on the same hole and she also doubled. Suddenly about six players had a shot at second place. Amazingly all three of the final group parred 18, because none of them were playing well down the stretch.
So it’s another win for Ochoa, and without even making my usual Monday web rounds I know folks are going to be saying that she was ripe for the picking but everyone let her off the hook. I suppose that is true (if you consider Sophie Gustafson to be “everyone”) but don’t forget, people often give PGA players a lot of grief for not ever being able to haul down Tiger Woods on Sunday, no matter how poorly he plays the last round. Perhaps Lorena is starting to acquire a similar mystique.
In-Bee Park had the Round of the Week with her 64 to jump into the tie for second. Ji-Young Oh missed a par putt at 18 from only four feet or she would have joined the masses at -7. For earning the first Top 10 of her career, Ji-Young gets the Big Surprise award this week. Amateur Tiffany Joh finished T22 so she gets a big shout-out as well. Tough to pick a Big Disappointment this week but I’ll give it to Ai Miyazato, who missed the cut by five shots.