Sunday, July 27, 2008

Evian Masters – Final Round

Helen Alfredsson birdied 17 and 18 to get into a playoff and three holes later, dropped a four-footer for birdie to defeat Na Yeon Choi and Angela Park and win the Evian Masters. It is Alfredsson’s first win since 2003 and the sixth of her 17-year LPGA career. Jin Joo Hong finished fourth at -13, two shots out of the playoff while Lorena Ochoa rallied late to finish fifth at -12.

Park and Candie Kung, the final twosome, were unable to pull away from the pack. Angela bogeyed 1 and 9, unable to find a single birdie on the front. Candie remained tied from the 1st hole until a bogey at 6 dropped her back. Kung went on to bogey 8, 12, 14 and 16, winding up with 76 and a T11 finish. Juli Inkster got within a shot when she birdied 4 but she too faltered, playing the next ten holes in +3 and finishing at T9. Choi started off on fire with birdies on three of the first four. A bogey at 6 sent her back to -11 and two behind. Then came another barrage – four straight birdies to sprint into a two-shot lead of her own. Choi parred 11 just to catch her breath and then picked up two more shots at 12 (despite being in the trees off the tee) and 13 to reach -17. Suddenly the rookie was four strokes ahead of Park (Alfredsson was five back) with only five holes to play. Helen recovered from a bogey at 13 with birdie at 14 to join Angela at -13.

After a par at 14, Choi began to stumble with bogeys at 15 and 16 but still led by two. NYC righted the ship at 17 with a par but one group later, Alfredsson dropped a birdie from 10 feet to reach -14. At 16, Park collected only her second birdie of the day to also close within one. At 18, Choi had just over 20 feet for birdie but couldn’t convert so she finished at -15. Helen reached the par-5 in two and two-putted from 40 feet for birdie to tie for the lead. Angela had about 25 feet for eagle and an outright win but missed it on the left side. She made the four-foot comebacker for birdie and we had our first three-way playoff of 2008.

Evian’s playoff format is to replay 18 until somebody wins. The first time through Alfredsson was the only player to reach in two, landing about 30 feet away on the back left. Park played her third to 25 feet. Choi’s second had landed in the right-side bunker – she blasted to about a foot. Helen’s eagle try missed left and rolled six feet past. Angela’s birdie attempt lipped the hole and spun out. Alfredsson drained her birdie putt. Na Yeon tapped in (her first birdie at 18 all week) so she and Helen went back to the tee. This time Choi reached the back left edge of the green in two while Alfredsson had to lay up after finding the right rough off the tee. Helen played her third to 12 feet. NYC lagged to about three feet. Alfredsson rolled her birdie home and Choi made hers to force another hole.

Third time was the charm. Alfredsson drove left into the first cut. Choi pulled hers even farther left into the trees. She was forced to lay up but found the right rough with it. Helen elected to go for the green and just managed to roll it up onto the putting surface. From a good lie but a tough angle, Na Yeon roped her third to ten feet. Alfredsson lagged to four feet. With elimination staring her in the face, Choi missed on the high (right) side and tapped in for par. Helen dropped her fifth straight birdie (four of them on 18) to seal the victory.

Earlier this year, I wrote an update on Hall of Fame point totals. In that post, I purposely omitted the names of a couple of veteran players with multiple victories from my list because I believed their chances of winning again were virtually nonexistent. One of those players was Helen Alfredsson. I am so glad that Helen proved me wrong on that point because now I’ll be less likely to be so foolish and repeat that mistake in the future. Congratulations!

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