SINGAPORE (AP) — Lorena Ochoa completed a runaway victory in her first tournament of the year, closing with a 4-under 68 to leave Annika Sorenstam 11 strokes behind Sunday in the rain-slowed HSBC Women’s Champions.
Competing for the first time since winning the ADT Championship in November for her eighth 2006 victory, Ochoa finished at 20-under 268 on Tanah Merah’s Garden Course. The top-ranked Mexican star earned $300,000 for her 18th career LPGA Tour victory.
“I took my game to a new level, so I’m going to keep trying to repeat myself,” Ochoa said. “There are a lot of birdies out there, and hopefully I’ll have great rounds this year.”
Ochoa entered the final round with an eight-shot lead, and steadily built on it through three rain delays. She passed the down time by chatting with her brother.
“It was more mentally a tough day than physically. You needed to be patient and not to worry too much, and hit the ball with precision,” she said.
Sorenstam won the B-flight, shooting a 71 for her third straight top-four finish. Slowed by neck and back injuries last year, she won the season-opening SBS Open in Hawaii for her 70th LPGA Tour title and first since September 2006, then finished fourth last week in the Fields Open.
“I’m glad it’s over now, just because I’m worn out. It’s been tough,” Sorenstam said. “I’ve played really well, just haven’t performed well on the greens.”
Paula Creamer, the Fields Open winner, shot a 73 to finish third at 7 under. Laura Diaz (71) was another stroke back in the first-year tournament, and Karrie Webb (74) and Stacy Prammanasudh (71) followed at 5 under
“It was an up-and-down day with the on-and-off-again rain, but I never really got any momentum,” Creamer said. “But it’s the same for everybody out there and you just kind of have to grind through it.”
In an event where only 13 players finished under par, Ochoa opened with rounds of 66, 65 and 69 to take a big lead over Sorenstam and Creamer into the final round. Ochoa missed a chance to break Cindy Mackey’s 72-hole record for margin of victory of 14, but topped her own mark of 10 in the 2006 Tournament of Champions.
“It means a lot,” Ochoa said. “To me it’s a great motivation, you know? It makes me want to play better, to win more.”
The first rain delay Sunday lasted nearly an hour just after Ochoa, Creamer and Sorenstam began play in the final group. It then took them about two hours to finish the par-3 11th and par-4 12th, with play stopped for about an hour after they teed off on 11 and for 20 minutes after their drives on 12.
After the first delay, Ochoa birdied the par-3 third and par-5 fourth to reach 18 under. She also birdied the par-5 ninth and ended a string of six pars with a birdie on the par-4 16 that got her to 20 under.