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Pettersen Survives Salas to Win LPGA Lotte Championship
Norway's Suzann Pettersen managed to handle a remarkable challenge from Lizette Salas to win the LPGA Lotte Championship. The $1.7 million event, which had an odd Saturday finish, took place at the 6,383-yard Ko Olina Golf Club in Kopolei on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.
Pettersen, a 32-year-old from Oslo, closed with a 5-under 67 to tie Salas - a 23-year-old Southern Californian - who shot a spectacular 10-under 62 in regulation, at 19-under 269. The two finished way ahead of the rest of the field; Thailand's Ariya Jutanaugarn - the first-round leader - had a 66 but ended up four strokes behind at 273.
Pettersen's 11th LPGA win wasn't easy, as Salas was magnificent. Beginning Saturday five strokes back, Salas crafted an incredible final round, posting nine birdies - including five straight on Nos. 12-16 - and an eagle (when her approach on the par-4 10th from 160 yards rolled into the hole), to offset an early bogey, for her 10-under, course-record-tying round.
Pettersen was sailing along with a three-shot lead through 12 holes. But as she was teeing off at the par-5 13th, a car horn went off and the veteran hooked her tee shot, which was never found and presumed out-of-bounds. She re-teed, and ended up with a bogey.
While all this was going on, Salas carded her third birdie in a row - in a remarkable stretch of five straight - on the par-5 14th to tie Pettersen at minus-17. The race was on.
Pettersen rebounded with a birdie on the 14th, but Salas responded with a birdie on the par-4 15th to tie the Norwegian at 18-under in what quickly became a two-player shootout.
Salas then hit a beautiful tee shot on par-3 16th to two feet and made the putt - birdie. Through 16 holes, Salas, who switched from a belly putter to a conventional blade before the start of the tournament, had only 18 putts. Two straight pars at the end of the round put the Southern Cal All-American in position for her first LPGA win. But she still had to beat Pettersen.
It was not to be as Pettersen, after a crucial birdie on the 17th for a temporary one-stroke lead, overcame a bogey on the 18th to force extra holes. On the first playoff hole, Salas found a water hazard with her second shot that led to a double-bogey and a disappointing end to one of the best stretches of golf by a pro tour player in 2013. Pettersen two-putted for a title-winning par.
Salas will have to wait until a later date to get her first win. After what she showed on Saturday, it won't be long before that happens.
Salas was hoping her first career win would happen this week. "My mom is here, everyone has been pulling for me, and I just - baby steps," Salas told reporters. "I've got to just keep working on the things I'm working on, and the good thing is I'm going home tonight to see my family tomorrow for a day, and I'm sure they're very proud of me."
The gritty Pettersen was impressed with Salas. "She's a tough cookie. She's been playing fantastic. She's just got to keep putting herself in this position, and she'll get her win."
For all the scores, visit http://www.lpgascoring.com/public/Leaderboard.