Hjorth captures first LPGA Tour win since 1999
PRATTVILLE, Ala. -- Maria Hjorth ended two streaks with a flawless final round at the Navistar LPGA Classic.
Hjorth made a long birdie putt on the 17th hole and held on for her first LPGA Tour win since 1999 Sunday at the Navistar LPGA Classic. In the process, she also denied Lorena Ochoa's bid for a fourth consecutive victory.
"It's been awhile, so it's just amazing right now," said Hjorth, who shot a final-day 5-under-par 67 for a 14-under 274 at Capitol Hill's Senator Course to pass both Ochoa and Stacy Prammanasudh.
The Swede drained the 20-plus foot putt from well into the fringe above the green on the par-5 17th to take sole possession of the lead for the first time while Prammanasudh made par and Ochoa moved within a stroke of the lead with her own birdie.
Prammanasudh finished one stroke back.
Ochoa was trying to become the first to mount a streak of four straight victories since Annika Sorenstam did it in 2004-05. Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez hold the record with five wins in a row in tournaments they competed in.
The Mexican finished with a three-putt for bogey to finish two strokes back with a last-day 73.
"It's life, and it's golf," said Ochoa, who tied for third with rookie Angela Park. "The first time it was three in a row then you win four, five or six. There's nothing else I can do except give myself another chance. Hopefully I can start another streak next week."
Hjorth hadn't won on the LPGA Tour since picking up two victories in 1999, but she had finished second at the Women's British Open in August and kept close to Ochoa and Prammanasudh throughout the last day.
"I was hoping for them not to run away too much," said Hjorth, who picked up a $195,000 check. "But I've been hitting the driver really well all week. If you do that on a course like this, you're going to have a number of birdie opportunities. So that's what I did all day."
She opened the final round four strokes behind Ochoa and three short of Prammanasudh, and each of them were in the last group. The long-driving Hjorth had an eagle on the fifth hole, sinking a 30-footer, and added birdies on the other three par-5 holes.
"She's hard to catch," Hjorth, who had a bogey-free round, said of Ochoa. "She always plays so solid and I knew she could all of a sudden make four or five birdies."
Prammanasudh sent a 20-foot birdie putt just left of the hole on 18 to cap a 71 round and fall short of forcing a playoff.
"I hit a good putt," Prammanasudh said. "I just didn't see it going left at the end. But I gave a good effort and I certainly can't be upset about things."
Park finished with a final-day 63, while Karrie Webb was fifth at 10-under, ending with a 68.
Amy Hung and Park both matched the low round of the tournament with closing 63s. Park birdied the final two holes to match Ochoa in third while Karrie Webb (10-under) was fifth and Hung (9-under) came in sixth.
Now, Park said she would take a little time off before preparing for the Samsung World Championship.
"I was dying to try to get into [that event] and I'm glad that I'm in," she said. "It's been a very, very pleasant experience."
Ochoa had grabbed a one-stroke edge when Prammanasudh bogeyed the final hole on Saturday, and had picked up five of her six wins this year when carrying a lead into the final round.
Hjorth birdied the par-5 10th to finally catch the front-runners for a three-way tie at 13-under. Ochoa had three bogeys after that.
But Hjorth came up big on the 17th hole. She and Prammanasudh both laid up trying to dodge trouble. Hjorth decided to putt instead of chip from the fringe to avoid a mistake "because you're a little bit nervous being tied in the lead."
"I actually thought I putted it a little bit too hard at first, but the fringe kind of pulled it up a little bit more than I thought," she said. "Once it got on the green, I saw it was perfect."
Ochoa, meanwhile, hit the 17th green in two shots and managed one final birdie.
"I didn't give up," she said. "I tried to finish strong and I was aggressive, especially on 17 trying to hit the green. And I made it, under pressure, and I'm happy to see those things."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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