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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2006 > LPGA > Samsung World Championship > Round 4


Lorena Ochoa clinches title with closing 65

Moments after Lorena Ochoa tapped in for par, she saw her family and friends storming the 18th green at Bighorn. Her cousin wrapped a Mexican flag around her, and everyone else soaked her with champagne, just like they do whenever she wins on the LPGA Tour.

No victory tasted sweeter than Sunday at the Samsung World Championship.

Ochoa took a huge step toward winning LPGA Tour player of the year, collecting all the big awards and possibly ushering in a new era in women's golf. And she did it by soundly beating Annika Sorenstam, turning a three-shot deficit into a two-shot victory with a 7-under 65.

"It was probably my best round of golf in my professional career," Ochoa said.

It was a jolt to Sorenstam.

The 36-year-old Swede has dominated women's golf the last five years until hitting a few speed bumps this season. She contended in only one major, winning the U.S. Women's Open, has won only three times and needed to finish the year strong to be LPGA player of the year for the sixth consecutive season.

Leading by three shots going into the final round, and by two shots at the turn, Sorenstam was rendered helpless by Ochoa, one of the most dynamic players in the game. Ochoa twice holed long putts, including a 60-footer for birdie at No. 10 that banged into the back of the cup, then briefly hopped out before falling.

"I really don't know what to say other than just to congratulate Lorena on a great performance and a great week and a great year," Sorenstam said after closing with a 70 that featured three bogeys. "I'm probably as disappointed as you can be. It just doesn't get any worse than this. I gave it all I had this week. She just played very, very well."

The victory felt even better to Ochoa than last week when she won for the first time in Mexico.

Ochoa finished at 16-under 272 for her fifth victory of the year, tops on the LPGA Tour. And it was a small measure of consolation for her last trip to the California desert, when she lost in a playoff 10 miles down the road at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Now, she is looking forward to a bigger prize.

She took a commanding lead in the points-based Player of the Year award -- Sorenstam or Karrie Webb likely would have to win their last two tournaments to have any chance of catching her. Ochoa earned $218,750 to take her earnings over $2.3 million, although the season-ending ADT Championship pays $1 million to the winner. Ochoa also has locked up the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average.

Even so, the biggest prize was beating Sorenstam. They had played only two times in the final group, with Sorenstam beating Ochoa in Phoenix last year and in Sweden this summer.

"I knew it was about time," Ochoa said. "I knew I could do it. We're breaking a barrier today. It's very important to me. It has extra meaning, for sure. I'll go home next week and celebrate it."

Her 65 matched the best score of the tournament. An hour earlier, Juli Inkster shot a 65 that was 10 shots better than her playing partner, Michelle Wie. The 17-year-old from Hawaii had more trouble in the desert and finished with a 75, her worst score on the LPGA Tour this year and her eighth consecutive round without breaking par.

Wie finished 17th in the 20-player field.

"Obviously, I'm not feeling as wonderful as I did," Wie said. "Like I said before, sometimes we have to take a step back in order to move forward. This is the time of year you don't play that great, your best, and all of a sudden you play good. I feel that's coming in me."

Her final event of the year is the Casio World Open on the Japanese tour the week of Thanksgiving.

Sophie Gustafson shot a 69 to finish third.

Despite trailing Sorenstam by three shots going into the final round, Ochoa was confident as ever. Never mind that Sorenstam is the No. 1 player in women's golf, a five-time winner of the Samsung and was unbeaten at Bighorn, where she is a member.

"I believe in myself," Ochoa said after the third round. "I know I can do it."

It didn't take long for her to make a believer out of everyone else in the final round.

Sorenstam birdied two of the first three holes, and still couldn't help but feel Ochoa breathing down her neck. Playing with calm and confidence, Ochoa birdied the first hole from 25 feet, watched a 70-foot putt crawl by the lip on No. 2, and made a 45-foot eagle putt on the third to apply enormous pressure.

Two holes later, they were tied. Ochoa made an 18-foot birdie putt, and Sorenstam three-putted from 50 feet, missing her 5-foot par putt so badly that it never touched the hole.

Sorenstam expected this from Ochoa, and she had an answer. Showing her experience on this desert course, Sorenstam played a 30-yard pitch below the par-5 seventh green away from the hole to take a bunker out of play, using a ramp behind the green to roll the ball 8 feet away for birdie to reclaim the lead.

Sorenstam made a 12-footer on the ninth to restore the lead to two, but then everything fell Ochoa's way.

Ochoa was angry at herself for hitting 8-iron some 60 feet from the flag, especially after her opponent was in the bunker. But as she paced the putt, she told her caddied, "I bet you 100 pesos I make this."

She made it, and Sorenstam took bogey for another tie. This time, Ochoa pulled away with a 5-foot birdie on the 11th and another Sorenstam blunder on the 15th. The Swede came up short of the green with a 61-yard wedge, then three-putted for bogey as Ochoa made yet another birdie putt to go three shots clear.



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