Nicole Castrale Nicole Castrale beats Lorena Ochoa in playoff to win LPGA's Ginn Tribute

Nicole Castrale became the season's sixth Rolex First-Time Winner yesterday by beating Lorena Ochoain a sudden death playoff at the LPGA Tour's inaugural LPGA Tour Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika.

"My goal going into today was to give myself a chance to win on the back nine," Castrale, who earned a $390,000 paycheck and a spot in the ADT Championship through the LPGA Playoffs 2007, told reporters. "So really, to stay close enough, basically close to Lorena. It was really weird, I had an eerie calmness about me all week, and it paid off."

Castrale was six shots behind Ochoa with six holes remaining but finished with a 1-under-par 71 on RiverTowne Country Club in Mount Pleasant, S.C., to force a playoff with the Mexican golfer, who bogeyed two of the final three holes. Castrale then made par on the first extra hole for the title. Ochoa is now 0-4 in playoffs.

"I need to learn to win the tough ones," Ochoa told the media. "For sure I need to improve my playoff percentages. I'm going to work on that."

Castrale, Ochoa and Cristie Kerr found themselves in a shootout on the back nine, where Castrale and Kerr had advanced to within a stroke of the world No. 1 women's golfer by the 13th hole.

The turning point for Castrale was a birdie on the par-3 17th hole. Ochoa's birdie putt from the left was 10 feet short, and she missed the par putt to go to 9-under with Castrale. The pair traded pars on the final regulation hole to enter a playoff.

Ochoa's drive found the hazard left of the fairway, forcing her to take a drop and a one-stroke penalty. Castrale's drive went down the center of the fairway, and she hit a 145-yard 7 iron to within 30 feet of the pin. Ochoa recovered, hitting her third shot to within 15 feet, but missed the putt for par. Castrale two-putted for the win.

"I always believed that I could win out here," Castrale said. "I would have liked to have won my rookie year in 2002, but I wasn't ready. I wasn't mature enough to win back then. I wasn't as good a golfer as I am now."

Kerr ended up finishing third. The tournament's namesake, Annika Sorenstam, returned to competition at her event after spending seven weeks sidelined with a back injury. She finished tied for 36th place.

Michelle Wie, who hadn't played since January because of a wrist injury, also made her comeback at the Ginn Tribute. The teenage golfer didn't fare as well as Sorenstam, pulling out the first day at 14-over-par through 16 holes with a 'tweaked' wrist injury.

June 4, 2007

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