DANVILLE, Calif. (AP) — Suzann Pettersen has come along way since her meltdown in the Kraft Nabisco Championship six months ago.
Then, she blew a four-shot lead with four holes to play. This time, she overcame a handful of frustrating bogeys to win the Longs Drugs Challenge in a two-hole playoff over world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa.
Pettersen sunk her second spot-on playoff putt as the sun was going down in the distance, beating Ochoa on an 8-footer for birdie on the second sudden-death hole Sunday for her third victory this year.
“I don’t know if we could have played much longer,” Pettersen said. “I probably hit my best putt, the last putt I had in the playoff. That was really nice.”
Pettersen, who began the day with a bogey and had three straight during one stretch, watched as Ochoa just missed a 20-foot putt before calmly making the winner and pumping her fist several times. They both birdied the first playoff hole, with Ochoa making a 15-footer from almost the same place where she took her final putt.
“Do it again, Lorena!” someone yelled as she returned to the 18th green.
Not this time. And Pettersen was too good to miss this opportunity to put herself ahead of the 25-year-old star from Mexico.
Pettersen finished with a 1-over 73 to match Ochoa (71) at 11-under 277. Pettersen earned $165,000 for the win – which helps further erase the bad memory of her shocking collapse on April 1 in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
“When was that?” she joked Sunday. “There were a lot of good things happening after that. It was a very good learning experience. I learned more from finishing second or third or whatever I finished than to win it, and I think it has really helped me.”
Pettersen and Ochoa embraced after both played aggressive golf all day on the hilly, picturesque Lakeside course at Blackhawk Country Club, then hugged again in the clubhouse later. Pettersen won her second playoff this year, and she and Ochoa have been placing wagers on various holes from time to time lately – “I lost to Lorena last week in a bet we had, so I guess I evened it out this week.”
“She won the playoff the way it should be – being aggressive and making a birdie,” Ochoa said. “I admire her a lot. She’s a very aggressive player and not afraid. … She has the characteristics of a champion. In my case, I’m going to try to stay ahead. She’s pushing me. I like that.”
Pettersen, the Norwegian who held a one-shot lead over Canadian Lorie Kane heading into the final round and was two strokes ahead of Ochoa, had three straight bogeys on Nos. 9, 10 and 11 to fall back. Yet Ochoa four-putted for a double bogey on No. 12 as she, Pettersen and Juli Inkster briefly shared the lead at 9 under. That was after Ochoa also bogeyed the 11th.
“I can’t believe I won,” Pettersen said while going over her bogeys.
Funny thing is, Pettersen made friends with a 12-week old golden retriever puppy named Bogey. The pooch, whose sister Birdie is the other course dog, became her mascot and she saw him each day.
“I can thank Bogey for the trophy,” she joked. “It’s so cute.”
For Pettersen, beating Ochoa had to be sweet: She trails her on every major LPGA Tour list.
Ochoa was trying to win for the fourth time in her last five events, but came up short for the second straight week. She tied for third last weekend in the Navistar LPGA Classic in Prattville, Ala. Ochoa still became the first woman to earn $3 million in a single season, making $101,967.
“I don’t care about the money,” Ochoa said. “I do not like to lose. That hurts me.”
Inkster finished third at 7 under after a 70, while Kane (77) bogeyed the 18th hole and settled for a fourth-place tie with Natalie Gulbis (66).
“I had nothing to lose,” Kane said. “I wasn’t out of it, but I just didn’t have it today unfortunately.”
Nicole Castrale (69) was sixth at 5 under, and defending champion Karrie Webb, still winless this season, shot a 72 to finish at 4 under.
Maria Hjorth, the winner last weekend in Alabama, tied for eighth at 3 under along with Inbee Park.
The 26-year-old Pettersen started the day at 12 under after shooting a 65 on Friday and a season-best 64 Saturday for the lowest two-round stretch in the event’s 12-year history (129).
But on Sunday, the very hole that helped her gain momentum a day earlier gave her trouble in the final round. She three-putted on No. 9 for bogey after chipping in from 35 yards out for her second eagle on the front nine Saturday.
Kane and Pettersen each bogeyed the first hole, while Ochoa calmly made her birdie putt.
A few dozen Hispanics followed Ochoa in the gallery for most of the day, something she has said gives her extra motivation.
“Nice shot, Lorena!” screamed 4-year-old Ariana Molera.
Molera, of nearby Martinez and watching with parents Jerry and Jonnell, received a wave from the Mexican star.
“Vamos, Lorena!” one man yelled later – “Let’s go, Lorena!” in Spanish. Ochoa also gave the thumbs-up sign to a Hispanic fan.
After finishing up on No. 8, Ochoa handed a ball to another young girl cheering her name.
“I was feeling great,” Ochoa said. “Even though I lost today, I learned a lot. I demonstrated to myself that I am getting better in terms of finishing strong and hitting the ball good under pressure.”