Lorena Ochoa fired a 66 to successfully defend her title at the Samsung World Championship. Mi Hyun Kim finished second at -14, four shots behind. Angela Park and Jeong Jang tied for third at -13 while Suzann Pettersen finished fifth at -12.
Entering the back nine, the outcome was very much in doubt. Ochoa stood at -15 with three birdies on the front side. Jang was tied for the lead after going out in 32. Park and Pettersen were only two shots back with Kim a distant five shots out. A birdie at 10 gave Lorena the outright lead – little did we know that was the go-ahead hole. At 13, JJ had seven feet for par and after backing off uncertainly a couple of times, her attempt burned the edge of the hole without dropping. Thoroughly disgusted with herself, after tapping in the bogey she flung her ball into the lake. Playing immediately behind Jang on the same hole, Ochoa managed to two-putt from 60 feet to save par and remain two shots clear. Pettersen lagged nicely to five feet but no sooner had Dan Hicks told us about Suzann putting with her eyes closed than she missed that par putt to fall four shots back.
From there on out, it was Ochoa’s tournament. Lorena birdied 14 from six feet and 15 from 15 feet to reach -18. Pettersen also birdied 15 but was unable to repeat Saturday’s birdie-fest finish. Park bogeyed 14 when she missed from four feet. Jang wound up taking 38 on the back nine. Peanut swiped second place when she birdied 17 and 18. Ochoa stubbed her toe at 16 when her tee shot rolled off the front of the green, leaving a tough pitch shot. She bogeyed there but got the shot back with a birdie at 17 and cruised to her seventh win of 2007.
Seeing as it’s Monday already, I’ll include my Epilogue stuff in this post. In retrospect, the win strongly reasserts Ochoa’s status. After losing to Pettersen (now the obvious #2 player and her primary challenger for the top spot) in the playoff last week, Lorena effectively said “Not so fast, sister!” Taking the number one ranking away from Annika Sorenstam may eventually look like child’s play in comparison to what one might have to do to get it from Ochoa.
Mi Hyun Kim is the Big Surprise, overcoming her back woes to finish second in the strongest of fields. I’m gonna saddle Nicole Castrale with the Big Disappointment – playing in front of the home folks and coming in with pretty good results, she finished 16th at +2. Ai Miyazato got our hopes up with her Friday 68, but 76-74 over the weekend dropped her to 18th place. A 10 at the par-4 2nd hole on Saturday showed she still has problems to work out.
Next year, I hope Samsung either brings more different commercials for NBC to show or allows them to bring in some associate sponsors. Every break brought the “official HDTV of the NFL” ad (sometimes TWICE in the same break) and the “Juke Box Hero” one is still ringing in my head. How about using the Masters approach and only air four minutes of ads per hour if you’re going to show the same crap over and over?
I think I saw Bettina Hauert on camera one time all week. Must have been on Thursday. She probably didn’t mind – most golfers who finish 35+ shots out of first place wouldn’t want too many people to witness how badly they are playing. It isn’t surprising that NBC didn’t interview her after she finished, either – better to let Bettina leave without any negative fanfare so she can get to work on what she needs to do to improve her game.
One More Thing: Despite the struggles of Hauert and her playing partner, Samsung's average score was 70.9, the lowest tournament average over the last two years. The 2006 ShopRite average of 71.075 was the previous best I've calculated. I plan to peruse the archives this off-season to expand that dataset.