WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- On the verge of an unlikely
collapse, Lorena Ochoa came through with a $1 million shot.
Wrapping up a sensational season, Ochoa overcame a double bogey
on the 17th hole with a daring shot out of the rough and over the
water to 3 feet for birdie Sunday to win the ADT Championship and
claim the $1 million prize, the richest in women's golf.
She didn't expect so many nerves so late in a final round at
Trump International that had been devoid of drama.
Ochoa was four shots clear with two holes to play until a
three-putt double bogey on the par-3 17th, where earlier this week
she had made a quadruple bogey. Natalie Gulbis made birdie to cut
the lead to one shot, and Gulbis followed with a hybrid into 15
feet on the 18th.
The 26-year-old Mexican star never flinched.
Her shot hit the front part of the green and didn't stop rolling
until it was 30 inches away. Gulbis missed her putt, and Ochoa
calmly rapped in her birdie for a 4-under 68 and a two-shot
"The best shot of my career," Ochoa said. "Five years, that
was the best one. All of you saw that."
And that she laughed, looking up at a gallery that indeed saw a
spectacular finish by the game's best player.
Despite the close call she could have done without, and a quirky
format that reset the scores after the second and third rounds,
there was no disputing the new queen on the LPGA Tour. That would
be "la reina" in Spanish, pronounced very similar to Lorena.
It was her eighth victory of the year, joining Annika Sorenstam
and Nancy Lopez as the only players to have done that in the last
30 years. And the big payoff pushed her earnings to over $4
Gulbis, who again showed she is much more than just a glamour
girl, gave all she had by giving herself birdie chances on the last
six holes, but she only converted two of them. She wound up with a
70, earning $100,000.
None of the other eight players who advanced to the final round
Paula Creamer was the only other player under par much of the
balmy day until hitting her tee shot into the water on the 18th and
escaping with a bogey to finish with a 70. She got $20,000.
Everyone else cleared the stage much earlier, certainly after
taking on the diabolical seventh hole, par 3 to a peninsula green.
The first five players found the water, with Karrie Webb going in
twice for a quadruple bogey. Webb shot 84.
Christina Kim kept talking about a dream she had this week,
unwilling to share it until Sunday. Chances are, the dream wasn't
to shoot 81 in the final round, but that's what she had.
It was a nerve-racking Sunday, with what looked like $1 million
cash stuffed into a glass case on the first tee and a Trump
International course that played as difficult as it had all week.
Ochoa made it look easy, and for most of the final round, it
looked like a runaway.
She ran off birdies on the second and third hole, hit a risky
flop shot toward the lake on No. 4 and made the 12-foot par putt,
followed with two more birdies and another fearless approach on the
par-5 ninth set up her fifth birdie to make the turn in 31. The
average score on the front nine for everyone else was 38.7.
Ochoa had a five-shot lead and showed no signs of letting up.
The first hint of any drama came on the 16th, when Ochoa hit
into a bunker and faced 131 yards over the water to a difficult
green. Gulbis already was 15 feet from the flag, and Ochoa hit
7-iron to about a foot inside her.
"It's never easy," her caddie said after raking the bunker.
One hole later, Ochoa proved him correct. Her tee shot went over
the back of the green, the rough keeping it from going into the
stream. Her 20-footer for par ran 6 feet by the hole, and Ochoa
missed that for double bogey.
It ended her streak of 48 consecutive holes at par or better,
but of more concern was a one-shot lead.
With Gulbis in birdie range, the scene was set for a stunning
comeback -- or collapse -- with Ochoa facing a lie in the rough that
could have gone anywhere. But it was right where she aimed, a
career shot that paid off in a million ways.
Ochoa finished the year with $4,364,994, having already
shattered the LPGA earnings record set by Sorenstam five years ago
Ochoa said she would donate most of the money to her foundation
and building schools in Mexico.
"A big celebration," she said.