|Last year's LET ISPS Handa Order of Merit winner Carlota Ciganda finished a stroke behind Inbee Park at the inaugural North Texas LPGA Shootout
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park showed again why she is currently the player to beat on Sunday, capturing her third victory of the 2013 season at the inaugural North Texas LPGA Shootout at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas. Park drained a 4-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to fire a 4-under 67 and defeat Spaniard Carlota Ciganda by one stroke for her sixth career LPGA Tour victory.
“Today coming into the final round, I was two shots back, and I didn't really think about winning so much,” Park said. “The front nine I was given a lot of birdie chances out there, and nothing seemed to be going in, so I was a little bit frustrated.
“But on the other hand, Carlota was putting really good and she was playing really almost perfect. She wasn't making any mistakes until No. 14 and she played very good today, except for a couple of holes. And until No. 13 I thought I wouldn't have a chance because Carlota was really playing solid. So yeah, I was just trying to be really patient out there, and finally a couple dropped for me at the end.”
It indeed took some miscues from Ciganda, who was the 2012 LET Order of Merit winner and the LET Rookei of the Year, for Park to capture her latest victory. The 22-year-old Spaniard held a two-stroke lead over Park following a birdie on the 10th. Trouble would then strike the young player on the 14th and 15th holes when she went bogey-double bogey to fall one shot back of Park.
On the par-4 14th, Ciganda hit her drive behind a tree. With 140 yards left to the pin, Ciganda tried to hit over the tree and ended up clipping a branch that resulted in her second shot coming up about 20 yards short of the green. Unable to get up and down, Ciganda’s two-stroke lead quickly became one. Then came even more problems for Ciganda on 15 when unsure about the left-to-right wind, she hit her second shot a little too far to the right and her ball bounced into the water. She would go on to make double bogey on that hole to fall to 11-under, one shot behind Park.
“I saw the ball bouncing on the green, so I thought that maybe it was there long,” Ciganda said of her approach into 15. “But when I was approaching the green, I could see that the wind was hard and the ball was in the water. So I mean I just tried to make up on that, and I missed my putt, so then it was a 6, and that was it. I think that was the key hole because until that time I think I was winning by two and then by one.”
Ciganda, who was trying to become the fourth Spaniard to win on the LPGA Tour, still had opportunities to catch Park. Her birdie putt on the 16th lipped out. Coming into the par-5 18th trailing by one, Ciganda drained a 15-foot-putt for birdie to tie Park at 12-under with the No. 1 player in the world facing a 4-footer for a birdie that would seal the win. And as she has does so many times recently, Park sank the putt to give her win No. 3 of the 2013 season.
The win in Texas helped Park maintain her hold on the No. 1 spot for a third consecutive week and continued what has been an impressive stretch of golf for Park dating back to last July’s Evian Masters. She has captured five victories in her last 18 starts and always seems to find herself in contention.
“It's always good to see my name on the top of the leaderboard almost every week,” Park said. “I mean not every week, but close to every week. Yeah, it always feels good, my game is ‑‑ it's really good to see my game is improving every week, every year, and just trying to take it step by step.”
Learning experience: Carlota Ciganda may only be in her second year on the LPGA Tour but she gained some valuable lessons during Sunday’s final round of the North Texas LPGA Shootout.
Playing alongside Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park, Ciganda proved that she could hold her own against the world’s best. The 22-year-old shot a 1-under 71 in the final round and even held a two-stroke lead over Park at one point in the round. While it didn’t result in her first LPGA Tour victory due to a few miscues down the stretch, Ciganda was able to have some perspective on what she was able to accomplish this week in Texas.
“I was trying to play my game, just trying to stay in the present all the time, and I was telling my caddy just focus on our game, just go shot by shot and just don't think about the other, don't think about Inbee or other players because you can't really control what they are doing,” Ciganda said. “I was just trying to focus on my game, and it showed and I think we did really good.
“I mean it's always nice to win, but I think when you finish second or even worse, I think you learn more from it,” Ciganda added. “So I think it's a great experience, and I'm happy with my week.”
There she is again…. Last week’s LPGA LOTTE Championship winner Suzann Pettersen continued her strong play of late, shooting a final-round 66 to finish in solo third at 10-under-par. The 32-year-old Norwegian has finished in the top 3 in each of her last three events, having also finished tied for third at the Kia Classic.
So is Pettersen’s game in peak form right now?
“Early on this week I didn't feel that great with my game to be honest, just coming off Hawaii, being in windy conditions, your kind of fundamentals and the swing changes a little bit,” Pettersen said. “So it was a lot of work early on, and I got better. I finally figured out the speed of the greens on the weekend.”
Pettersen said the key to her strong play on Sunday was finally figuring out the course at Las Colinas Country Club.
“It's a great track,” Pettersen said. “I mean it just plays a lot different than what I expected it to. It plays like a links course, the fairways, hard and bouncy.”
Karine Icher was the next best placed European in a share of seventh place, followed by Dewi-Claire Schreefel in a tie for 11th. Giulia Sergas tied for 15th along with first round leader Caroline Masson.