On a windy, overcast day, Gwladys Nocera of France started the final round at the Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open in 5th place on the leaderboard, trailing leader Veronica Zorzi by 3 shots. Zorzi’s lead didn’t hold up. Nocera and defending champion Carlota Ciganda pulled ahead and played shot-for-shot through the front 9 of the final round and the tournament looked like it was headed for a playoff. Then Nocera birdied the last three holes to clinch the Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open title by two strokes. Ciganda finished in solo 2nd place.
The 38-year-old Nocera fired a final round seven-under 65 – with five birdies in the last six holes –for a three-round total of 15 under par, collecting her 12th Ladies European Tour victory.
Ciganda shot a 68, while 17-year-old Chinese amateur Jing Yan had a 67 to end on 12 under par in solo third place.
Nocera said the win made amends for the disappointment of 2009, when she finished second, a stroke behind Korea’s Bo Mi Suh, after being penalized two strokes for reporting late to the tee.
“I finished second with a stroke penalty so I didn’t feel like I deserved it and I knew I had revenge to take. It took me a while but I have my revenge and it’s nice,” said Nocera, who won the Allianz Ladies Slovak Open in June.
Nocera fired three birdies on the front nine, at the first, fourth and fifth holes, then three putted the 10th for bogey. But she stayed patient and picked up birdies at 13, 14, 16, 17 and 18 to deny Ciganda back-to-back victories.
I didn’t have any expectations. I told myself, ‘You’re here to play golf and you’re playing good, so just play golf. It doesn’t matter what it’s for, just play.’ I had three good putts at the end to make birdies on 16, 17 and 18 so I think I was really relaxed and I really like the greens. They are really good here and it’s pleasant to putt on them.
Gwladys Nocera, 2013 Suzhou Ladies Open Champion
The Missed Putt
For Ciganda, it was so close and yet so far. After a great front nine, with four birdies, she stalled with two bogeys on 11 and 13 before recovering with two birdies. She missed an eagle putt on the 18th hole which would have forced a play-off, but ended up with a par. Looking back, Ciganda felt she lost the tournament when she 3-putted the 10th hole. Her confidence shaken, Ciganda then missed some short putts that would have kept her even or put her in the lead.
There was excitement for the home fans as Jin Yan led the tournament outright after 14 holes, but the the 17-year-old from Shanghai, who lives in Singapore, bogeyed 15 and could not keep up the momentum. Still, this was Yan’s first top-10 LET finish, and that’s a significant milestone for the teenager.
Joanna Klatten of France ended in fourth place at -11, with Charley Hull and Patcharajutar Kongkrapan a stroke back in a tie for fifth place.
It’s Not Over Until It’s Over
The 2013 season is coming to a close for both the LET and the LPGA. The Ladies European Tour now takes a three week break, before the Hero Women’s Indian Open at Delhi Golf Club, November 28-30, which will be the Tour’s penultimate tournament of the year. Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand is the 2012 defending champion.
LPGA events fill the interim: November 8-10 at the Mizuno Classic in Shima-Shi, Mei, Japan, Stacy Lewis will defend her 2012 championship, and November 14-17, Christie Kerr will defend her 2013 championship at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The CME Group Titletholders, the final event of the LPGA season, November 21-24 at Naples, Florida, promises some exciting end-of-season golf and some side attractions as well. Korean Na Yeon Choi, the 2012 defending champion, is certain to put up a spirited defense of her title. In addition, the Titleholders will provide the public platform for Lydia Ko’s long-awaited debut as a professional, and will also anticipate the 2014 season with the announcement of the 8 country teams to participate in the new LPGA International Crown event next summer.