Lorena Ochoa led all day, lost most of her lead at the infamous 17th, but held off Natalie Gulbis to win the ADT Championship and its $1 million first prize. Gulbis finished two strokes back, while Paula Creamer was third and Cristie Kerr finished fourth.
I’ve said a few words about the 17th hole this week, but today the par-3 7th hole did more to shape the day’s events than any other. Six of the eight players found the water at 7 and five of them scored double-bogey or worse. Only Ochoa and Creamer stayed dry, and they both birdied to create a huge swing in their favor. Gulbis managed to save bogey when she pitched her third to within inches of the hole. At this point, Ochoa led at -4, Creamer was second at -1, and Gulbis was +1. After the 7th, these three were the only players in the hunt. Creamer missed from eight feet at 8 to fall back to even par, and Ochoa birdied 9 to reach -5 and take a five-shot lead at the turn.
As the back nine progressed, Paula and Natalie weren’t able to make up any ground but Lorena wasn’t able to put them away either. Gulbis had birdied 9 to tie for second. Creamer made one from seven feet at 11 to reach -1. At 13, Natalie drained it from 25 feet to recreate the tie for second, four shots back. Creamer kept missing the green in regulation, forcing herself to make par saves. At 15, Ochoa teed off so far right that she missed the creek running down the right side. She recovered to have 12 feet for birdie, but couldn’t make it. Gulbis put the pressure on with a second at the par-5 that stopped about 20 feet away, but she proceeded to three-putt (her eagle try went six feet past) to let the opportunity get away. Ochoa’s tee shot at 16 found the bunker on the right, but she played a brilliant shot to 11 feet, just inside of Natalie’s second. Both putts missed right, and they went to 17 with the margin still at four.
Gulbis’ tee shot was excellent, to about 12 feet from the pin. Ochoa didn’t play it poorly – I thought she was obviously making sure that if she missed the green, it would be left toward the lateral hazard rather than right toward the lake. She landed in the left-side rough, leaving a slick downhill chip. Lorena chipped way short, and her 20-foot par putt missed left and rolled six feet by. Natalie drilled her birdie putt, Ochoa missed her bogey putt, and the three-shot swing trimmed the lead to one with only 18 left.
While that was going on, Creamer destroyed her last hope by dropping her drive at 18 into the water (if you recall, she barely cleared it Saturday and played her second from the fairway bunker). Her fourth was brilliant, but the bogey finished her day at even par. Gulbis teed to the middle of the fairway while Ochoa barely cleared the right-hand bunker but got stuck in the rough. Natalie ripped her second to 15 feet and appeared to have a great chance to force a playoff. But then Lorena came up with one of those “Ochoa moments” that have occurred so very often the last two years. From a thick lie in the rough, she flew her ball to front of the green and watched it roll all the way up, stopping only three feet away. Needing to make now to have any chance, Gulbis came up just short on her birdie try. Ochoa rolled hers in to win by two.
It wasn’t the most exciting ADT final but I hope you didn’t change the channel when Ochoa was leading by five. The three tough finishing holes guaranteed some fireworks at the end, but I wouldn’t blame you if you had guessed they would let Lorena win by ten instead of allowing a challenger to get close. I’m a little surprised that no one involved in the 7th-hole disaster was able to get it turned around – Kerr was the only one to even get back in the vicinity.