Sunday, July 20, 2008

State Farm Classic – Final Round

Ji Young Oh defeated Yani Tseng on the first playoff hole to win the LPGA State Farm Classic. It is the first career victory for the second-year player from Korea. Na Yeon Choi finished third at -17, one shot out of the playoff. Hee-Won Han, Stacy Prammanasudh and rookie Shanshan Feng finished tied for fourth at -16.

Tseng started the day with a two-shot lead but struggled on the front nine. She was +3 through eight holes but began to turn it around with a birdie at 9. Ji Young birdied 4 and 7 but then bogeyed 8 to create a four-way tie for first with Tseng, Han and Katie Futcher. Oh then birdied 10 to take the lead for herself. Tseng moved back into a tie when she birdied 11.

The super-low round on Sunday was turned in by Shanshan Feng. The rookie fired a 63 to get into the clubhouse at -16, which at that point was only one stroke behind Tseng and Oh. At 12, Yani flew her second over the green and missed a four-footer to take bogey and put Oh back in front. On the par-5 13th, Specs (if you’ve seen Oh you could guess why I might call her that) played her second to just short of the green. Her chip just stopped an inch short of falling for an eagle – the birdie gave Oh a two-shot lead. Playing one group behind, Tseng reached the green in two then lagged to four feet and made birdie also, chopping the lead back to one. At the par-3 14th, Ji Young’s tee shot was woefully short and right of the green. Her chip wasn’t much better and she missed from 15 feet to lose the lead she had held by two only one hole prior.

Na Yeon Choi had kept herself within a shot with birdies at 11 and 13. Prammanasudh had gotten within two when she birdied 13 and a 20-footer at 15 drew her within one. Unfortunately for Stacy, both Oh and Choi had roped their approaches at that same hole to five and six feet respectively so after the subsequent birdies Ji Young went to -18 with Choi and Tseng at -17 and Stacy tied at -16 with Feng. When Yani came through 15 she too only had five feet for birdie and that putt re-tied her with Oh.

The par-5 16th is where the two front-runners got a little separation. Playing from in front of the green, Oh chipped up to four feet and made the putt to reach -19. Choi had an eagle attempt from the back fringe but missed it way left, leaving a six-footer that she wasn’t able to convert and fell two back. Stacy P two-putted from 35 feet to get her birdie and stay within two shots. Tseng also two-putted from the back edge and she was again tied with Oh but now no one else was closer than two with only two holes to play.

17 was weird. For the second time in a row on a par-three, Oh missed short of the green. Choi landed in the right-side bunker and Prammanasudh was 30 feet beyond the pin. Stacy missed left, stopping about three feet past the hole. Oh chipped up to almost the same spot as Stacy. Choi blasted out to about seven feet and drained the putt to keep her slim hopes alive. Prammanasudh pushed her putt right, taking bogey and knocking herself out of the running. Ji Young apparently didn’t notice that Stacy pushed her putt because she over-compensated and missed her three-footer left, giving the lead back to Tseng. Tseng had 15 feet for birdie but missed it left and went to 18 still up by one.

Oh’s 25-footer to tie just missed right so she tapped in to finish -18. Choi was in the back fringe about 20 feet away – eerily close to the spot Sherri Steinhauer was for her last putt 10 months ago. NYC burned the left edge and made the four-foot comebacker to finish -17. Tseng took a hybrid off the tee and left herself 169 yards to the flag. She airmailed her 7-iron (really pumped up there!) and it bounced up against the grandstand. Yani got relief from the stands and her chip caught up a bit in the second cut, stopping six feet short of the hole. Her par attempt was pulled left and we had us a playoff.

They replayed 18. From great positions in the fairway, Oh landed in the front rough and rolled to the other side of the green while Tseng came up a little short into the fringe. Chipping to avoid rolling through about 12 feet of fringe, Yani overcooked it to seven feet past the hole. Ji Young’s lie was terrible but she played a marvelous chip to a foot. Tseng stood over her downhill putt, backed off the shot for about the eighth time today, and proceeded to miss it on the right side. Oh tapped in her par to win it.

If that wasn’t a Free-For-All, it sure felt like one while I was trying to take notes! To keep this recap from getting really scrambled, I had to omit any play-by-play of Hee-Won Han (71 -16 T4). Mom’s birdie at 18 got her to into the Top 5. Kristy McPherson had another great week – 67 today gave her a T7 at -15, joining Kyeong Bae in that position. Bae had gotten to within one when she chipped in for birdie at 11 but a missed six-footer for birdie at 15 left KB just out of reach. Wendy Ward’s 66 grabbed a Top 10 position – T9 with Christina Kim and Katie Futcher.

As always, more tomorrow.

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