Suzann Pettersen birdied the second playoff hole to defeat Lorena Ochoa in a thrilling shootout and win the Longs Drugs Challenge. It was Pettersen's third victory of 2007 and her second by way of a playoff. Juli Inkster finished third, four shots back at -7 with Lorie Kane and Natalie Gulbis tied for fourth at -6.
The day started with a three-horse race but by the 12th hole, Inkster had turned it into a quartet. She started her run with birdies at 3, 4 and 5. After bogeying 8, Juli birdied 10 and 12, bogeyed 13 but birdied 14. Pettersen and Kane really made a mess of the first few holes. Kane bogeyed the first two holes along with another at 7. Pettersen bogeyed 1 and 3, got one back with a birdie at 5 but then bogeyed 9. Ochoa birdied twice on the front to lead at -12 at the turn with Pettersen two back, Kane four back and Inkster still five behind. Lorena opened the door with a bogey at 11 and a four-putt double-bogey at 12. Suzann tripped over the threshold as she bogeyed 10 and 11. When Inkster birdied 10 and 12, she was one back of Ochoa and tied with Pettersen.
Suzanne birdied 12 to stop the bleeding and tie for the lead at -9. Lorena birdied 13 from 10 feet to re-take the lead. Juli rolled one in from 12 feet at 14 to get back within a shot. With a cow mooing loudly nearby, Ochoa made a seven-footer to save par at the par-5 15th. Inkster mistakenly chose to lay up there and nearly made the green anyway. The resulting tough position wound up forcing her to settle for par. Pettersen missed a five-footer for birdie at 14 but after an outstanding second at 15, a two-putt birdie (her eagle try burned the edge) tied for the lead. Lorena came up just short on a 20-foot birdie try at 16. Suzann had a 20-footer of her own at 16 and canned it to take the lead. Ochoa answered at 17 by drilling one from 15 feet. Inkster three-putted from 30 feet to bogey 17 (her birdie putt went five feet past) and knock herself out of the running. Kane, -8 and three back with two to go, had her par putt at 17 do a 360 and spin out to end her hopes. Pettersen had birdied 17 the three previous days and had 18 feet to do it again, but came up just short. Ochoa had only seven feet for birdie at 18 but couldn’t drop it. Pettersen’s 40-foot birdie attempt at 18 went about three feet by, but she made the come-backer to reach the playoff.
To settle it, 18 would be replayed as many times as necessary - daylight permitting. On the first go-round, Pettersen narrowly avoided the fairway bunkers on the left side as Ochoa played down the middle. Lorena landed her second pin-high about 15 feet under the hole. Suzann couldn’t have placed hers much better, about two feet away. Needing a birdie to force another hole, Ochoa rammed it home. Pettersen tapped in and they rode the carts back to the tee. After their good tee shots, the two players casually strolled down the fairway discussing travel plans and next week’s Samsung event! No sign of nerves from these two! Lorena played to the same general area as on the first hole, just a few feet farther away from the hole. Suzann again played her approach inside Lorena, to about six feet this time. Ochoa played her 20-footer just a little too high, and Pettersen dropped her putt for the victory.
Natalie Gulbis posted Sunday’s best round, a 66 to give her the tie for fourth place. Nancy Scranton made a fine charge, firing 67 and claiming a top 20 finish in a last-ditch effort to make the Top 90 money list. Liselotte Neumann struggled to a 78 (despite almost holeing out her approach at 18) as she wound up T41. I’ll update the haves and have-nots in the exemption race in tomorrow’s Epilogue.