With a birdie on the 18th hole Aussie Karrie Webb finished the JTBC Founders Cup at -19 and took the lead, then waited more than an hour while first Stacy Lewis, then Azahara Munoz, Amy Yang, Mirim Lee and finally Lydia Ko tried and failed to tie up the tournament but stalled out at -18. Webb now has 41 Tour victories and a tie with Founder Babe Zaharias for LPGA Tour wins, and with 1242 points takes a significant lead in the year-long Race to the CME Globe.
Webb Comes From Behind
Webb didn’t look good for this win at Sunday’s start. With rounds of 66, 71 and 68, the Rolex Ranked No. 6 Aussie who’s an 18-year veteran on the LPGA Tour started the final round at -10 for the tournament, trailing Lydia Ko’s lead by six shots. Standing on the first tee, she believed she needed to get to -20 in order to get in a playoff. In order to get to -20 she was going to have to card a 62.
Karrie Webb dialed in her game, hit 14 fairways, got to 14 out of 18 greens in regulation, made her way around the course with an economical 22 putts, and missed her goal by one stroke. Ten birdies and a bogey later, she went to the clubhouse with an impressive and, ultimately, a winning 63. That’s experience at work!
A Logjam at -18
The near-perfect playing conditions at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Wildfire course brought out the best in the players and the extraordinarily high energy that emanated Renee Powell, Sally Spork and Marilyn Smith gave that best effort some extra fuel. The birdie attempts on the 18th green were almost like gifts to the Founders who were watching and genuinely loving each moment of this very special tournament.
Defending champ Stacy Lewis played a heroic Sunday round, but it was too little, too late and she found herself one shot short even with a magnificent birdie on the 18th hole.
Azahara Munoz, who started Sunday at -13 played a flawless fourth round, but Munoz bobbled birdie attempts on both 17 and 18 and she, too, went to the clubhouse one shot shy of a playoff with Webb.
Amy Yang also fell short and after a thoroughly competent and at times brilliant four rounds of golf, just wasn’t able to send that final birdie putt to the cup.
Rookie Mirim Lee’s troubles today started on the front nine. With a bogey on the fourth and a double on the ninth Lee seemed to lose her rhythm on Sunday. Still finishing at -18 in her American debut as a Tour player is no small accomplishment. She went to the clubhouse in a 5-way tie for runner up.
Lydia Ko, now dubbed the Runaway Rookie by Golf Channel, was the wild card in the Sunday round. She started the day with a one stroke lead and a huge mental advantage, but after her bogey on the 6th couldn’t seem to regain the momentum she needed to take the win.
Usually a fearless and decisive putter, Ko’s confidence with her flat stick seemed to ebb away from her on the back nine. I expect Ko will become more comfortable with the pressure of the Sunday round as she gains pro experience, and that will come with time.
Up & Down The Board
Jessica Korda looked good for a high finish at the Founders Cup, maybe even a second 2014 win. She started Sunday with three solid rounds, 69, 66 & 66, and she was holding the second spot on the leaderboard. Then came a very big Whoops!, a quadruple bogey on the par-4 seventh hole, and Korda took a tumble down the board. But the winner of the Pure Silk-Bahamas did what a winner does: she picked herself up, dusted herself off, and played her way back to a -17, top-10 finish!
Suzann Pettersen did not manage to overtake Inbee Park in the Rolex Rankings. Park finished at -16 in a tie for 10th place and Pettersen at -11 in a tie for 29th place. Neither of them played like top-ranked golfers this weekend.
Pornanong Phatlum‘s edging her way to another win. The Rolex Ranked No. 32 top Thai player on the Tour, who will likely lead the Thai team at the International Crown, played her way up the board from the 13 slot to a tied 7th place finish at -17. She had a top-10 finish at the Pure Silk-Bahamas and although she languished in the middle of the board at the ISPS Handa Australian Open, the Honda LPGA Thailand and the HSBC Womens Champions, her game has a winning energy to it. I’m putting Phatlum on my radar.
The LPGA Tour goes now to the Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad, California and the Kia Classic. This is the last event before the Kraft Nabisco and team selections for the International Crown. I expect competition will be intense and I’ll provide an event preview early in the week.
Golf Channel will provide daily coverage from Thursday, March 27 through Sunday, March 30 and ProGolfNow will be there as well.