Sorenstam Shocks Ochoa Wins in Playoff
Sorenstam carded a 2-under 70 in the final round to complete the event tied with Lorena Ochoa at 11-under-par 277. Ochoa struggled to a 2-over 74 on Sunday.
Juli Inkster (72) and Soo-Yun Kang (76) shared third place at 8-under-par 280. Liselotte Neumann, the 1998 champion of this event, posted a 1-under 71 to close the tournament at 7-under-par 281. She shared fifth place with Rosie Jones, who was the 1998 runner-up.
Sorenstam two-putted for birdie from 22 feet out on the 72nd hole to get to 11-under. Ochoa had a 12-foot birdie try at the last to win, but it slid by the right edge.
Ochoa teed off first in the playoff on the par-5 18th. She pulled her tee shot into the water left of the fairway. Sorenstam played her tee ball without issue on the Prospector Course at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club.
Ochoa took her drop, then knocked her third into the right rough. The Mexican hit her fourth shot over the green and missed her par chip.
Sorenstam, meanwhile, knocked a fairway-wood up near the green. She pitched her third shot to 7 feet and two-putted for par and her 58th win on the LPGA Tour. That ties her for fourth on the LPGA's all-time wins list with Louise Suggs.
'I've learned the lesson the hard way not to ever give up, but it wasn't really looking good,' said Sorenstam, who pocketed $210,000 for the win. 'I saw Lorena climbing up the leaderboard with more and more birdies, and I was trying really hard, but I just couldn't make any birdies.
'And it wasn't until the 16th when I heard that she double-bogeyed, and when I was on 18, I realized there's a big chance here.'
Sorenstam began her day four strokes behind Ochoa, who held at least a share of the lead after each of the first three rounds. The Swede opened with five straight pars before stumbling to a bogey at the sixth.
The Swede came right back with a birdie on the seventh. Around the turn, Sorenstam moved to 10 under with a birdie at the 11th. She remained there with six consecutive pars before her two-putt birdie at the last.
'The 4-wood I hit is probably one of the better shots I've hit in a long, long time,' Sorenstam said. 'I was so pumped to come up there and have a great opportunity to win. You know you're not always going to win, but when you do, it just makes it so much sweeter.'
Ochoa led Kang by one stroke entering the round, but was four strokes clear of Sorenstam, who began the round alone in third place. The Mexican struggled to bogies at the third, fifth and sixth to slide back to minus-10.
Ochoa fought back to even par for her round as she birdied Nos. 7, 8 and 10. She looked to be in control when she sank a 12-foot birdie putt at the 15th to again move four shots clear of Sorenstam.
The 23-year-old Ochoa found a fairway bunker off the tee at 16. After a poor second shot, she knocked her third on the green 15 feet from the hole.
However, she faltered to a three-putt, double bogey. Her troubles continued as she bogeyed the next after missing the green to the left.
Playing one group behind Sorenstam, Ochoa watched as Sorenstam birdied the last to tie the two at minus-11. Ochoa could only par the last forcing extra holes.
'It was a really hard day for me,' Ochoa admitted. 'I didn't feel comfortable since the morning. I was out of my rhythm and I was anxious out there and swinging to quick. So, I gave the tournament away. Annika beat me.
'She gave me a good chance to win the tournament, and I just made really big mistakes at the end. I'm pretty upset, but I'm going to try not to be too hard on myself. I'm going to learn from this.'
Michele Redman fired a 5-under 67 to finish the tournament alone in seventh place at 6-under-par 282. Laura Diaz (69), Candie Kung (72), Gloria Park (72) and Natalie Gulbis (68) finished one shot further back at minus-5.
Amateur sensation Michelle Wie closed with a 1-under 71. She shared 12th place at 4-under-par 284 with Siew-Ai Lim and SBS Open winner Jenny Rosales.
Grace Park, the defending champion at next week's Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first major of the season, withdrew prior to the final round with a sore back. She is expected to be ready to defend her title at the Nabisco though.
After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...
Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner
On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...
Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.
After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.
Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.
A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray
Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call
PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.
At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.
“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”
Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.
Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.
Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.
“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.
Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park
PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.
Laura Davies won the day.
It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.
Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.
Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.
For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.
In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.
“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”
At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.
“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”
Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.
“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.
With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.
“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”
Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.
“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”
She also relished showing certain fans something.
“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.
Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.
In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.
Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.
“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.
After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.
“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”
Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.
In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.
“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”
And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.
Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill
ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.
The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?
“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”
And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.
After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.
“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”