Azahara Muñoz of Spain came from a stroke behind the all-French trio of Gwladys Nocera, Joanna Klatten and Valentine Derrey to claim her second Ladies European Tour title at the LACOSTE Ladies Open de France.
The 25-year-old from Malaga saved par on the par-four 18th hole, getting up and down from the back of the green, to win by a stroke from Nocera and Derrey, who both had 67s at Chantaco Golf Club. Rounds of 68, 65, 68 and 65 gave Muñoz a winning total of 266, 14-under-par.
This was Muñoz’s third career victory after she won the 2009 Madrid Ladies Masters on her professional debut on the LET followed by the 2012 Sybase Match Play Championship on the LPGA. In addition to the first prize of €37,500, she took home a Richard Mille – RM 007 watch, worth €38,500.
Despite an amazing six weeks since winning The Solheim Cup as part of the record-breaking team in Colorado, an emotional Muñoz said: “It’s been a long year and I’ve been playing really bad and since Solheim it’s got much better and I’m just really happy to have won here. Lacoste is one of my best sponsors so I’m really happy to be here and holding the trophy.”
Over the 72 hole tournament, Muñoz made her score primarily on the front nine, where she was 11-under-par for the week.
In the final round, played in warm and sunny conditions, she came straight out of the blocks with five birdies over the opening nine on holes two, four, six, seven and nine, then came back in level par with a birdie on 15 against a bogey on 17, her only blemish on the card.
“Right from the beginning I started to play really well; I hit it really close so I had a couple of tap-in birdies and in the end, I didn’t make many putts, but it was enough from the front nine so I’m really happy,” she said.
Commenting on the front nine, she continued: “It has so many birdie-able holes. The back nine is kind of tricky and I still haven’t got quite used to it but today I got quite lucky and made five birdies on the front and just one on the back, and that was good.”
Derrey and Nocera were also strong on the front nine, making five and four birdies respectively. However, Derrey dropped shots on 13 and 14, while Nocera mixed a birdie on 15 with dropped shots on 11 and crucially, the par-3 16th.
Both players needed a birdie on the final hole to tie and force a play-off, but came up short in front of a large gallery of home supporters.
Nocera, who was targeting her 12th LET victory, said: “I think I’m more frustrated by yesterday’s round. That three-putt on 18 cost me a lot and with two shots, and four shots ahead of Azahara, it would have been easier to start the day. I think it’s more yesterday I’m a little bit upset about and today we made too many mistakes: club mistakes, strategic mistakes. To me, when you play against a player like Azahara, I knew you cannot make any mistakes. She’s an amazing player. It’s the kind of player that doesn’t make mistakes and if you make some, you lose. That’s the game!
“When you’re in contention and you’re here in France and that close to winning and you don’t, it’s a little bit sad, but that’s golf. I’m playing good.”
Despite falling short, Derrey was delighted to earn a career best tie for second after finishing third in Helsingborg three weeks ago.
“I played well and was five under after nine: played solid golf and didn’t miss a lot. I missed a shot on 13 and had a bogey and on 14 my drive got in the rough so my second shot was a little hard and I made bogey but I’m happy with my week.”
With Joanna Klatten a stroke further back in fourth and Karine Icher in a share of fifth place with Lee-Anne Pace on 10-under-par, there were four French players within the top six places. The 2012 champion Stacey Keating ended on one-over-par in a tie for 29th place.