PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — Trailing by three shots with two holes to play, Lorena Ochoa knew that nothing less than an eagle at the par-5 17th hole would rekindle her hopes at the Wegmans LPGA.
When she reached the green in two and rattled in a 12-foot putt, the pressure suddenly shifted from the world’s No. 1 player to In-Kyung Kim, a South Korean rookie looking for her first win on the LPGA Tour.
Kim failed to hold on, missing a 4-foot par putt on the last regulation hole, and Ochoa then beat her in a playoff for her third victory this season and her first playoff win in five attempts.
“I just never lost my hope,” Ochoa said. “Making that eagle on 17, it was very special. I will remember that … for the rest of my life.”
With the U.S. Women’s Open coming up Thursday at Pine Needles in Southern Pines, N.C., the 25-year-old Mexican star said she feels the time is ripe to capture her first major title.
“I’m ready, I’m prepared,” she said. “I like my chances.”
Ochoa 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. It was the first playoff finish at this tournament in suburban Rochester since Patty Sheehan defeated Ayako Okamoto in 1989.
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 shot 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 her tee shot behind trees to finish with a bogey and dropped 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 chances 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 and from 5 feet for another bogey on No. 14. But she finally caught up on No. 18 when Kim had to chip out of the rough 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 her rookie year in 2003 and won in 2005 when she birdied six of the last seven holes to beat Paula Creamer by four strokes. She has 11 top-10 finishes this year, winning the Safeway International in March and the Sybase Classic in May.
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.