Lorena Ochoa claims title in playoff
Lorena Ochoa vanquished the playoff demons. Now the world's No. 1 player is aiming for her first major title.
Ochoa erased a three-shot deficit over the last two regulation holes Sunday and then beat South Korean rookie In-Kyung Kim in a playoff to capture the Wegmans LPGA for the second time in three years.
The 25-year-old Mexican star closed with a 1-over-par 73 for an 8-under 280 total on the Locust Hill course and won with a par on the second playoff hole. She eagled the par-5 17th and got even on the last hole when Kim missed a 4-foot putt for par.
"It was a really good thing -- not the beginning of the day but the end of the day," Ochoa said. "I just never lost my hope."
It was her first playoff victory in five attempts, and the first playoff finish at this tournament in suburban Rochester since Patty Sheehan defeated Ayako Okamoto in 1989.
"This is really a good turning point winning a playoff," Ochoa said, adding that "I like my chances for next week" at the U.S. Women's Open.
Ochoa earned $270,000 to extend her lead on the money list to $1.52 million. That's almost a half-million dollars more than her nearest rival, Suzann Pettersen of Norway.
The 19-year-old Kim, who closed with a 72, has made steady progress this year. Her previous best finish was a tie for fourth at last month's Corning Classic. She missed the cut in four of her first six outings but stayed through the weekend in the past six, tying for 21st at the LPGA Championship two weeks ago.
"I can cry right now but I'm not going to cry for this," Kim said. "I played really tight with the No. 1 player and I'll take that experience. Next time I'm never going to let it go."
South Korean compatriot Mi Hyun Kim, an eight-time tour winner, drove a shot behind trees to finish with a bogey and drop into third place at 7 under. She was one shot better than Cristi Kerr (71), a nine-time winner who led after the opening round.
Tied for fifth were Lindsey Wright (71) and defending champion Jeong Jang of South Korea, who closed with a 68.
After three rounds, Ochoa led In-Kyung Kim by one shot. She missed a half-dozen makable putts on the front nine, lipping out three times, and her bunker shot on No. 10 rolled 35 feet past the hole for a bogey that dropped her back into a tie.
She missed from 12 feet for bogey on No. 12, birdied the next hole and missed from 5 feet for a bogey on No. 14. She then sank a 12-foot putt for eagle on No. 17 and tied it with a par on the last hole when Kim chipped from behind the green and then lipped out.
Both players made par on the first playoff hole. After wayward drives on the next hole -- the par-4 10th -- Ochoa sank a 3-foot par putt while Kim missed from 15 feet away.
Early this month, Ochoa let a two-shot lead slip away over the final two holes at the Ginn Tribute, handing Nicole Castrale her first LPGA Tour victory in a playoff.
Ochoa was runner-up here in 2003 and won in 2005 when she birdied six of the last seven holes to beat Paula Creamer by four strokes.
In her fifth year on tour, Ochoa won the Safeway International in March and the Sybase Classic in May, was the runner-up three times, and placed in the top 10 on five other occasions. She has yet to win a major.
Ochoa topped the 2006 money list with $2.59 million, just $4,632 more than Sweden's Annika Sorenstam. For the previous 11 years, either Sorenstam or Karrie Webb of Australia had ranked No. 1 in official earnings.
The $1.8 million tournament, sandwiched between two majors, drew 47 of the top 50 money winners. One absentee was Sorenstam, who opens her defense of the U.S. Women's Open on Thursday at Pine Needles in Southern Pines, N.C.