Ochoa wins by two strokes
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- Lorena Ochoa wasn't on the leaderboard for the first two rounds of the Sybase Classic. When the rain-shortened tournament was over, however, she was right where she has been for the last two months.
Ochoa extended her impressive run with a two-stroke victory Sunday, the sixth straight tournament which she has either won or been the runner-up.
The 24-year-old Mexican closed a 5-under 66 with a 4-foot birdie putt for a 5-under 208 total that allowed her to retake the season money lead after losing it last week.
"I didn't make any bogeys and it's a fine round when you don't make any bogeys on a course like this," she said. "We knew the scores wouldn't be too low and we hung around the first two days and knew we would have a chance to win the tournament. On the back nine we hit a couple close and made the putts and then we were one shot behind and then in the lead."
Ochoa, who won the Takefuji Classic in April and has four seconds and a fourth this season, started the final round four strokes off the lead.
The lead was hers for good when she made a birdie putt from about 20 feet on the par-5 15th, her third birdie in a five-hole stretch. She made par-saving putts on the next two holes and closed her fifth career win with the birdie on the par-5 just as rain began to fall on the Wykagyl Country Club course.
"The whole week I drove the ball well and that was the key," Ochoa said. "I feel comfortable right now. I know I can do it. I'm ready to win tournaments. I worked really hard in the offseason and it's really good to see it paying back as the results are showing."
The tournament was shortened to 54 holes after heavy rain and a saturated course wiped out all play on Friday.
Hee-Won Han, the champion here in 2003, had a closing 69 and tied for second with rookie Kyeong Bae, who matched Ochoa's final-round 66.
Allison Hanna, who had missed her last four cuts and five of eight this year, was leading the tournament until four-putting 15 from about 60 feet and three-putting the par-3 16th from about 15 feet for bogeys. She finished three strokes off the lead after a 71. It was still well ahead of her best career finish, a tie for 22nd at the SBS Open in February.
Annika Sorenstam, coming off her first missed cut since 2002, was two shots behind Hanna at 3 under before taking a triple-bogey on the par-4 9th.
Sorenstam hit three shots that landed on the elevated green and spun back down the hill, two almost landing in the same spot from which they were hit. The 7 dropped her to even for the tournament and the sport's career money leader was never able to get back into contention. Sorenstam, a two-time winner of this event, finished with a 3-over 74 for a 213 total.
"What can I say?" Sorenstam said of the 366-yard 9th. "I hit a lot of good shots, I really did. It's a tough green. I hit a 9-iron the first time and I thought it was a great shot. Then I hit a sand wedge, I don't know what to say other than that. I made seven good shots."
The eight-time LPGA player of the year was asked if she had an experience like that.
"If I have, I've totally forgot about it," she said.
Gloria Park, the 2002 Sybase champion, was the second-round leader at 4 under, but two bogeys and a double-bogey had her even at the turn. She also finished at even par after a 75.
Ochoa won $195,000 from the purse of $1.3 million and that moved her back in front of Karrie Webb in the money race. Ochoa has won $1,114,888, while Webb, who took this week off after winning the Michelob Ultra Open last week, has won $935,202.
Webb or Sorenstam has led the money list the last 11 years.
"Things are going to change," Ochoa said. "We're all working hard to be in that position. That's my goal and dream."
Juli Inkster, who won here in 1992, had a 71 to finish at 1-under 212.
Paula Creamer, defending a title for the first time and using a pink golf ball, closed with a 70 and was even for the tournament. She won last year at 6 under. ... It's just a few hours up the interstate to the tour's next stop, the LPGA Corning Classic in upstate New York, and then two of the next four weeks are majors. ... The last LPGA event shortened to 54 holes by weather was the 2003 State Farm Classic won by Candie Kung. ... The other first-round leaders with Han finished well off the pace. Beth Bauer (73) was at 215, two strokes ahead of Natalie Gulbis (75). ... Helen Alfredsson, who had Saturday's low round at 66, closed with a 76 and was at 217.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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