Castrale beats Ocha in play-off at Ginn Tribute

Nicole Castrale chased down the world’s number one player for her first United States LPGA Tour victory, beating Lorena Ochoa with a par on the first hole of a play-off Sunday in the Ginn Tribute.

Castrale closed with a one-under 71 to match Ochoa (74) at nine-under 279 on the River Towne Country Club course. Castrale earned $390 000.

Ochoa led by six shots on Saturday and was still ahead by two strokes with three holes to play on Sunday. However, bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes dropped the Mexican into a tie and a wayward tee shot into a marsh on the play-off hole, the 18th, cost her the title.

Castrale, who watched Ochoa’s bad drive, kept it simple and straight on the extra hole.
She two-putted from 25 feet for par, then waited until Ochoa’s 18-foot try to extend the play-off slide left.

Castrale put her hand over her mouth then hugged her caddie, husband Craig, and Ochoa.

Castrale, the former University of Southern California golfer playing her second full US women’s tour season, had never done better than a tie for third in last season’s Honda LPGA Thailand event.

Castrale nearly did the unthinkable—finish birdie-birdie to beat the world’s number one player.

She made a 15-foot birdie on the par-three 17th. Moments later, when Ochoa’s eight-foot par try spun off the cup, the two were tied for the lead.

Castrale drove into thick rough on the 18th, yet put her approach 22 feet away. The putt that would’ve won her the title, though, came up two feet short.

Ochoa, coming off a victory two weeks ago in the Sybase Classic, needed her own par-saving putt from about four feet to force the play-off.

The swirling wind caused problems all round, players continually backing out of their stances to wait for the gusts to calm.

The final group finished play in just under six hours.

Cristie Kerr closed with a 73 to finish third at six under, and Paula Creamer (71) and Sarah Lee (71) tied for fourth at five under.

Ochoa looked to have this one wrapped up several times. But, like on Saturday when she saw her six-shot lead cut in half by three late bogeys, Ochoa faltered down the stretch.

For a second straight round, tournament officials altered the starting times to deal with the effects of tropical depression Barry. While players on Saturday dealt with drenching rain, Sunday brought wind gusts close to 30km/h.

The competitors continually backed off shots to wait for the wind to calm. No one shot lower than Christina Kim’s 70 on the par-72 layout.

Annika Sorenstam, the tournament’s host, struggled to her highest round of the week, four-over 76, and tied for 36th. She hadn’t played in two months as she recovered from a ruptured disk and bulging disk.

“I’m trying to get into the swing of things and trying to stay very patient,” she said. “It’s going to take me four or five tournaments to be ready.”

Sorenstam will continue her comeback at the McDonald’s LPGA next week. - Sapa-AP

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