SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. - Many thought the winner of this week's U.S. Women's Open would be someone who'd proven herself on the LPGA Tour, but had yet to win a major.
It happened, but she just wasn't the player everyone expected.
American Cristie Kerr out-dueled World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa Sunday to finish on top of the leaderboard at 5-under-par here at Pine Needles and win the U.S. Women's Open Championship, her first major. Ochoa, the hands-on gallery favorite, was also looking for her first major, but key mistakes late in her round Sunday cost her the title.
It was Kerr's 10th career win.
"Whatever it took I was going to win this tournament," Kerr said. "Hitting it bad, hitting it crooked, I would have made putts from everywhere."
Kerr has fond memories of Pine Needles. She was the low amateur here in 1996 and finished fourth in 2001. She began the final round Sunday in the lead, one shot ahead of her final round playing partners Ochoa and Morgan Pressel - as well as South Korea's Ji-Yai Shin.
Ochoa was tied with Kerr or one shot back most of the afternoon, but Kerr never surrendered the lead.
Kerr made a crucial birdie on the 14th to get to 5-under, one ahead of Ochoa.
"I've been walking in putts all week," said Kerr. "And that was a pretty damn good one."
Ochoa, whose last birdie of the day came on the third hole, scrambled for difficult pars on 15 and 16, but wasn't as fortunate on the long par-4 17th. She hooked her drive into a fairway bunker. From there, she was aggressive and went after the green with a metal. She hit it heavy and it failed to make it into the fairway. Her third shot found the green, but she missed the putt.
That bogey gave Kerr a two-shot lead heading into the final hole.
Ochoa, who entered the tournament as the favorite to claim her first major, goes home without the major she put herself in contention for.
"I don't need to be frustrated," said Ochoa. "I'm just happy to be in this position that I'm giving myself a chance to win my first major, and we still have one more this year, and I'm trying to get that one."
Eighteen-year-old rookie Angela Park, who lead most of the first two rounds, finished in 3rd place. After a birdie on the 15th to get to one shot back, she hooked her tee shot into a short side bunker on the par-3 16th. She made bogey and bogeyed the 17th as well.
Pressel, the Kraft Nabisco champion, had a disappointing afternoon. She shot a front-nine 37 to fall three shots back of the lead, then a back nine 40 for a 77 to finish 3-over par. She held back tears on the last few holes and double-bogeyed the 18th to finish tied for 10th.
"I tried grinding pretty hard, and that's something I can't do," said Pressel. "I'm just pretty upset with the way I played today."
In a strong international field that saw participants from 13 countries including 35 South Koreans, an American takes her nation's tournament for the first time since Meg Mallon in 2004.
"Everything this year I've been working on has been pointing to this tournament," said Kerr. "Whatever it took, I was going to win."
July 1, 2007
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.
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