Lorena Ochoa won the Safeway International Presented by Coca-Cola going away, firing a 66 and winning by seven shots. Jee Young Lee was second, Minea Blomqvist finished third, while Angela Stanford and Eun-Hee Ji wound up tied for fourth. It is the second win of 2008 for Ochoa, the 19th of her career and leaves her only three points shy of clinching entry into the Hall of Fame.
For most of the front nine, the three front-runners seemed intent on allowing the field to haul them down. Ochoa was even par through 7 (-16 overall) with a one-shot lead over Lee and Stanford, and several players (Ji, Hee Young Park, Blomqvist and Laura Davies) began to reach -12 and harbor hopes of getting back in the hunt. Just after GC came on the air (about 1.5 hours tape delayed), Lorena birdied 8 from 15 feet to go up by two and then dropped another 15-footer at 9 to take a three-shot lead. Stanford had birdied 9 to tie Lee for second, but both of them immediately collapsed. Angela made a nice chip to set up a par save at 11 but took bogey at 12 to fall four back. Jelly missed the green left at 11 into a deep bunker, blasted too far past and failed to make the 30-footer for par. Then Lee missed the green at the par-3 12th way right, chipped up too short and couldn’t make the 18-footer. Ahead at 13, Stanford drove OB and wound up taking 8 on the par-5, costing herself nearly $70,000 in the process.
Despite it being unnecessary, Lorena went into “Ochoa mode” down the stretch anyway - three straight birdies at 13, 14 and 15 and a final exclamation-point birdie at 18. It could have been a double-digit victory – she missed a makeable birdie putt at 12 and had eagle opportunities at 14 (after she drove the par-4 green) and 18. Once the outcome was no longer in doubt Lee turned herself around by driving through the 14th green and two-putting for birdie, then a birdie at 18 put her in solo second place. Stanford birdied the same two holes to recover to a fourth-place tie.
Minea Blomqvist and Eun-Hee Ji made great charges up the board – Blomqvist shot 67 to take solo third while Ji’s 65 tied her with Stanford for fourth. Brittany Lang, Maria Hjorth and Laura Davies also broke 70 to climb into the Top 10. Lindsey Wright and Inbee Park struggled but still maintained Top 10 status, tying for ninth. Juli Inkster shared Round of the Day honors with Ji, her 65 lifting her to T15. Annika Sorenstam only managed a 70 but her T9 makes her four-for-four in Top 10 finishes on the year. The Big Surprise goes to rookie Hee Young Park, whose T9 was the first of her career. Lots of Big Disappointment candidates – I’ll go with Seon Hwa Lee, who missed the cut by two shots.
Golf Channel does the best job of any network in covering the LPGA but once again their primary alliance with the PGA disrespected the ladies. NBC’s coverage of the event in New Orleans went off the air just before 6:30 EDT and GC immediately began their “Post-Game Show” instead of beginning the scheduled LPGA telecast. They aired the entire 30-minute program (complete with analysis of Phil Mickelson’s chipping ability and how it will help him at the Masters TWO WEEKS from now) before beginning the Safeway coverage. Granted, the ladies were on tape-delay anyway (now 1.5 hours behind instead of only one) and GC has its contract with the PGA and were prohibited from starting Post-Game on time but next time guys - just do the highlights and interview thing for 10-15 minutes and get on with your other obligations, ok?