Carlota Ciganda made a memorable first visit to China by notching her second title on the Ladies European Tour with a wire-to-wire victory at the Suzhou Taihu Open.
The 22-year-old LET rookie from Spain, who claimed her maiden win in Holland this June, yet again displayed her extraordinary talent by firing a bogey-free course record eight under par 64 in warm and hazy conditions at Suzhou Taihu International Golf Club.
She romped to a seven stroke victory with a tournament record 17 under par in the 54-hole event, going one stroke better than world no.1 Yani Tseng the previous year.
Ciganda seemed to be enjoying her status as the LET’s ISPS Handa order of merit leader and said it was the best golf she had ever played over three rounds. “I was just thinking about playing my game, having fun, and I liked the course from the beginning. I was playing good, I was confident and I think it’s one of those weeks that everything goes right and I was lucky. I was making putts, hitting to the fairway, hitting lots of greens and then Javi, my caddie, did a great job. He was very good with the shots. I think it was everything,” said Ciganda, who began the final round two strokes clear of Germany’s Caroline Masson after opening with rounds of 65 and 70.
Looking totally at ease, Ciganda continued her solid play on Sunday by opening with two birdies and picked up another on the par-five fifth, where she made two putts from the front of the green. She added a fourth birdie at the sixth hole, making an eight-foot putt to move six clear of Masson.
Ciganda then made three further birdies on 11, 14 and 15 before signing off with an impressive birdie on the 451-yard par five 18th hole. She hit her driver over the water hazard, struck a four-iron to 40 feet short of the flag and tapped her second putt in.
“This week I was very relaxed because I was trying to play my game, to go shot by shot and just thinking about my own game and not thinking about the others, because you can’t control what the others do so just try to have fun. I really like it here and I love golf so it was just one more day of golf,” she said, adding that she would celebrate by having dinner in the luxurious Taihu Golf Hotel with her caddie.
Masson admitted that she was effectively playing for second place all day, despite having shot three rounds in the 60s. She signed off with a three under 69 that included four birdies on the back-nine and said: “I played fine. I knew it was going to be tough to beat Carlota on this course. She played two solid rounds before and I think today, after a few holes, it was clear that it would be very difficult.
“I made a few birdies, made a few bogeys as well and couldn’t find my rhythm on the front nine. I played well on the back nine but she was already too far ahead so it’s just an amazing performance I think from her this week: 17 under, it’s really, really good and I played well. I’m happy with my performance.
“I was not sure I was going to play here until Monday because I had some trouble with my wrist so I think second place is a really good finish for me this week and I’m really, really happy with that.
“I was kind of relaxed from the start. I have been in this situation a few times now and I get more relaxed every time. I didn’t read the putts well on the front nine but maybe it helped when she was so far ahead. I was worried about finishing second, so I think after nine, seriously, I was just trying to be second.”
In tied third spot were France's Julie Greciet and England's Florentyna Parker with identical totals of six under 210.
It was a lucky day for Korean Bae In-ji who shot two eagles - on the 5th and 12th holes. "On the par 5, fifth hole, I hit the driver and 3-wood to within seven yards of the pin, while on the par-4 12th hole I hit a driver and 4-wood," said Bae, who finished tied ninth.
China's Lin Xiyu was also in fine form, finishing best of the Chinese entries. The 16-year-old professional from Guangzhou finished with a 2-under 70 for a 54-hole total of 211 to be tied fifth with the 2010 champion Lee-Anne Pace, Patcharajutar Kongkraphan and Samantha Richdale.
"I'll try even better in Sanya next week as that is also my favourite course and I did well there the last two years," Lin said.