Sunday turned into quite a grande finale at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic. The Bahamas put on a spectacular weather display, the perfect backdrop for the on-course 18-hole drama. There was barely a cloud in the sky and just a hint of wind for the final round as temperatures reached the upper 70s on a picturesque day in the Islands. It was a perfect day for a shootout and Jessica Korda won it on her 18th hole, up and down birdie putt!
America’s top-ranked golfer Stacy Lewis set the tone for the day as she got off to a blazing start and she looked good to take home another pile of money and another trophy for much of the round. Lewis birdied six of her first eight holes to move into a tie for the lead at 17-under-par with Rolex Ranked No. 17 Lizette Salas.
The shootout got started as Lewis, Salas, Korda, and South Korean Na Yeon Choi started making the turn. Korda birdied the 10th hole, her third birdie in a row, and pulled even with Salas and Lewis. Despite a bogey at the ninth that halted her momentum, Lewis pulled even again when she birdied the 11th hole. Then Na Yeon Choi birdied 10 and joined the very crowded top of the leaderboard.
With her first pro victory within reach, Salas began to run out of steam. She had played three and a half rounds of high competition golf suffering flu-like symptoms. Her 2nd shots lost their mark. Her putts wobbled. She gave back three shots in three holes, and the promise of a first pro victory victory slipped away for her.
Then Lewis’s momentum slowed. The earlier energy of her birdies settled into more sedate straight pars. And after Lewis faltered in her attempt to get up-and-down for birdie from behind the 18th green, it was all up to Korda, who was playing behind Lewis and watched her par out at the 18th.
At that point, with Choi playing in the final group and at -16, and with Lewis and Korda tied for the lead at -17, Korda hit her second shot over the green on the par-5 18th. It looked like there was going to be a playoff.
Korda’s ball came to rest amidst a snarl of television cables, leaving very limited swing room and no option for a reasonable drop, even though Korda was entitled to take relief from both the cables and the grandstand. Korda elected not to move her ball.
While officials and volunteers held up cables Korda putted beneath them, from off the green– to within six feet of the cup. Her birdie putt dropped and she moved to 19-under-par, the tie with Lewis broken. Korda raised her hands in the air and was doused with Pure Silk shaving cream to celebrate her second career LPGA Tour victory.
Choi’s only hope of catching Korda at that point was to hole out the 18th on her 2nd shot, which was well out in the fairway. She gave it a brave try, failed, and ended the Pure Silk-Bahamas sharing third place honors with Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum, Paula Creamer, and Lizette Salas.
The Pure Silk-Bahamas was a simply splendid opener for the 2014 LPGA season. A top-heavy leaderboard, aggressive golf, and perfect weather — who could ask for more? Another tournament, perhaps? The season’s in full swing now!
Lydia Ko will defend her title at the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open next weekend, January 31-February 2 at the Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch, New Zealand. I’ll keep you updated on the event, which has a very exciting Hole-in-One Million Dollar Shootout special event.
Then we’ll all go to the LPGA/LET/ALPG co-sanctioned ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, February 13-16 at The Victoria Golf Club in Victoria, Australia. I’ll supplement Golf Channel coverage on this event.
The girls are back! The drought is over!