Seon Hwa Lee was nine shots behind Sophie Gustafson at the start of the final round and took the lead as she was playing 15 (Sophie’s double at 14 put Seon Hwa in front). Think about that for a minute - a ten shot swing in 14 holes is amazing. The notes and interview page at lpga.com says that Lee’s comeback is second only to ten-stroke comebacks by Mickey Wright and Annika Sorenstam. Funny how they forgot that Louise Friberg came from ten back to win this year’s MasterCard event. Since that tournament was played in Mexico and wasn’t on U.S. TV, did it really happen? UPDATE: They've corrected that omission now.
The average score at RiverTowne was barely above par – 72.15. That’s two shots lower than last year’s inaugural event which featured two days of hard dry greens followed by a windy rainy Saturday and an even windier Sunday. I’m guessing the true average for this layout would be between 72.5 and 73, assuming they ever play it again.
I’ve talked before about Ginn Resorts’ financial problems and the likely demise of one or the other events sponsored by them. RiverTowne is a fine venue and they handled the event and all of its logistics very well, but I’m going to assume that the Tribute is the one heading out the door. Ochoa’s withdrawal probably hurt attendance some, but I was still amazed at how few people were on site Sunday. I sat at 14 and watched 80% of the groups go by, and even Creamer and Gulbis (separately) couldn’t have had more than 30 people following them. When I followed Lee to 17, I had no problem getting a position to see both tee and green. The grandstand at 18 looked pretty full as the last two groups came in and the fairway had people lining in from over halfway back for Webb and on the playoff hole, but even then I expected a bigger crush than I got. Of course I only have my 2006 Atlanta experience to gauge crowd size by – we had to dodge people all day during the final round there. Besides, we all know the surest way to kill a tournament is for the Hound Dog to attend it, right? If that happens, I have Montgomery and Mobile as options for 2009.
I stopped walking along the 16th fairway Sunday to watch Seon Hwa Lee and Song-Hee Kim play their second shots and someone was asking an Asian lady which player she was following. Turns out she was Seon Hwa’s mom! I told her how much I loved watching her daughter play but I don’t think she understood much of what I was saying. At 17 I was standing in the shade and she walked up and stopped beside me to watch there. She had to lean over quite a bit to see around some other people so I insisted she stand in front of me. I’ll consider that good deed to be part of the karma that swayed the event in Lee’s favor!
The leaderboard was jammed with players we’ve become accustomed to seeing, so I’ll have to drop into the Second Ten to award the Big Surprise this week. Giulia Sergas finished T14 for her second straight Top 20 finish (T11 at Corning). I could give Angela Stanford her second Big Disappointment in a row but I’ll spread the pain and let Hee-Won Han have it this time.