Pettersen Wins LPGA Lotte Championship
KAPOLEI, Hawaii — After building a six-shot lead through eight holes, Suzann Pettersen appeared ready to cruise to victory in paradise.
But Lizette Salas was not about to concede. She posted an event-record 10-under-par 62 in an improbable comeback that ultimately led to a sudden-death playoff with Pettersen after both finished the final round of the LPGA Lotte Championship at 19 under.
Salas’ effort would not quite be enough, though. Her approach shot on the first designated playoff hole at No. 18 found the water hazard fronting the green at Ko Olina Golf Club and Pettersen won by two-putting for par. Salas finished with a double-bogey.
Pettersen shot a final-round, 5-under 67 under clear skies and lazy breezes en route to her 11th career tour win.
“I just tried to stick with my own game plan. I didn’t really look behind me,” said Pettersen when asked if she was aware of Salas’ late charge. “I putted great, and that’s how you win tournaments.”
The players used the favorable conditions to their advantage.
Salas strung together seven birdies and an eagle during a nine-hole stretch to tie Pettersen at 19 under with two holes remaining. While Pettersen inched ahead by a stroke with a birdie on 17 after Salas parred the hole — and Salas’ birdie attempt lipped out on the par-4 18th — Pettersen bogeyed the final hole to send the match into the playoff.
Pettersen, a 10-year tour veteran, was the only golfer to post four consecutive sub-70 rounds. She drained eight birdies in the final round after totaling 18 in her first three rounds combined. She birdied every hole on the course during the tournament except the par-5 No. 5 and the par-4 No. 18.
“My game’s been feeling great,” Pettersen said. “You get older, you get smarter. I play well when I stay aggressive. I hate to play defensive. For me to shy away and not step on the pedal, that’s not me. If I make an error being aggressive, I can live with it. I felt like I executed four good rounds under very different conditions.”
Pettersen, the sixth-ranked player on the tour, received $255,000 of the event’s $1.7 million purse and credited her improved putting for playing a key role in the victory.
“I’ve been putting with my eyes closed all week,” Pettersen said, explaining a technique she utilized in the past when struggling in the short game. “I visualize everything in my head and that’s it. It’s a very releasing feel because I’m just letting it happen. Once the ball’s left the (club) face, there’s nothing I can do.”
Salas’ final round featured nine birdies and a long eagle chip that helped her rally from five shots off the lead at the start of the final round.
Salas, ranked No. 37, made a hard charge at the lead, including her eagle on one of the course’s toughest holes, the par-4 10th. Her dead-on six-iron shot from roughly 150 yards bounced on the green and rolled in.
“I played my butt off today. Some wrote that I lack a punch. I had plenty of punches out there today,” Salas said, fighting back tears. “I’m sad just because I wanted to win for my dad. I wanted to win for me. I’m almost there,” she added, in reference to her search for a first LPGA win.
Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, a rookie on the Ladies European Tour, finished third after taking the first-round lead with a tournament record-tying 64. The 17-year-old finished with a 6-under 66 that included seven birdies.
Top-ranked Inbee Park continued to ride a wave of positive momentum and tied for fourth at 13 under with fellow South Korean I.K. Kim after shooting a 67.
Ai Miyazato, the ninth-ranked player and the defending tournament champion, rallied to post a par 72 and tie for sixth at 11 under.
NOTES: South Korean Hee Kyung Seo, the 2011 Rookie of the Year, wrapped up the tournament with a 3-over 75 and tied for ninth at 10 under after starting the day in second, one shot behind Pettersen. … Second-ranked Stacy Lewis also finished in the six-way tie for ninth. A two-time tournament winner in 2013, Lewis could have regained the No. 1 spot with a victory this week