Sunday, April 06, 2008

Kraft Nabisco Championship – Final Round

Lorena Ochoa fired a 67 to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship by five strokes – her second straight major championship, her third win of 2008 and the 20th victory of her career. She is now only one point away from clinching a place in the LPGA Hall of Fame. Annika Sorenstam and Suzann Pettersen tied for second at -6 and Maria Hjorth finished fourth at -5.

Ochoa served notice with birdies at the first two holes, opening up a three-shot lead. Han responded with birdies at 4 and 6 to climb back within one. Sorenstam, Pettersen and Hjorth had moved to -5 at this point and each looked likely to put some more pressure on the leader. A bogey at 7 set Hee-Won back and then a two-shot swing at 8 – birdie by Ochoa, bogey by Han – put Lorena ahead by four. Ochoa birdied 9 to take a five-shot lead. Annika birdied 11 to get back within four but Lorena immediately birdied 10 to stretch it back out. For the second day in a row, Ochoa had birdied three straight holes near the turn to open things up. Would she come back to the field again?

Hjorth birdied 11 and Pettersen birdied 12, tying them with Sorenstam for second at -6. The 11th had been playing very easy all week but Ochoa wasn’t able to extend her birdie streak there when her greenside eagle chip went ten feet past and she missed the comebacker. The three closest pursuers weren’t able to give themselves many makeable chances the rest of the way, and Ochoa (while she missed a fairway or three but played nice recoveries each time) did a solid job of cranking out pars. 16 gave her the most trouble - she played from the right rough into a greenside bunker, but blasted to five feet under the hole and rolled it in for par.

Sorenstam and Pettersen shared second when Hjorth drove into the water at 18 and just missed her par putt. Seon Hwa Lee triple-bogeyed the par-3 5th hole, holed out her second at the par-4 7th and shot 72 to finish fifth. Mi Hyun Kim (69) and Na Yeon Choi (70) had good days to move up to T6. Han slipped all the way to -2 as she bogeyed five times in 11 holes but she dropped a nice birdie at 18 to finish T6. Inbee Park was -4 through 11 but bogeys at 13 and 14 pushed her back to T8. Cristie Kerr started the day two back but suffered through an 80 to wind up T21.

As Lorena walked off 18, a mariachi band greeted her. During her post-round interview with Beth Daniel, they were playing so loud I don’t think Beth could concentrate. I couldn’t tell what they were playing, but it might have been “Tequila” or “Tijuana Taxi”. The pond-jump set a record – at least 20 assorted Mexican fans jumped in after Lorena, her mom, her dad and (I believe) her sister.

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