French Fun: Azahara Muñoz Takes the Victory!

As the final round of the Lacoste Ladies Open de France began the sun was shining especially brightly for French trio Valentine Derrey, Joanna Klatten and Gwladys Nocera.  They were sharing the top of the leaderboard at 10-under-par.   Spanish Solheim Cup stars Azahara Muñoz and Carlota Ciganda were at -9 and -8 respectively, with sister European team member Charley Hull of England and South African Lee-Anne Pace also just two shots behind the leaders at -8.

French fans were thrilled with the prospect of a victorious Frenchwoman at the Lacoste Open.   Derry, who lives nearby and has childhood ties to the Chantaco course, was a special crowd favorite.  But it wasn’t to be.  In the end, Azahara Muñoz outplayed the French leaders and claimed the Lacoste Open victory 1 stroke ahead of her closest competitors, Gwladys Nocera and Valentine Derrey.

The fans who were following the leaders groaned when Klatten opened her round with a bogey, but hope revived when she eagled the par-5 7th hole.  But a signle birdie on the 15th just wasn’t enough to keep Klatten at the top of the board.  She carded 69 for the 4th round and finished the tournament at -12, in solo 4th place.

Derrey and Nocera both played brilliantly on the front 9, collecting birdies and making no mistakes.  But they both gave back strokes with bogeys on the back 9 and ended the final round at 67, not enough for a victory.

We made too many mistakes: club mistakes, strategic mistakes. To me, when you play against a player like Azahara, I knew you cannot make any mistakes. She’s an amazing player. It’s the kind of player that doesn’t make mistakes and if you make some, you lose. That’s the game!

Gwladys Nocera, On Losing to Azahara Muñoz

All three leaders chased Muñoz through the final round.  As they made the turn, Muñoz, Derrey, and Nocera were all at 30.  It would be a close contest to the final hole, with Muñoz drawing on nerves of steel and the panache she brought to her Solheim performance in August to close the deal.   Klatten, at 34, had fallen behind and wouldn’t be able to catch up.  The back 9 mistakes and a final, 18th hole par save from the back of the green by Muñoz made the difference between victory and a share of 2nd place.  Either Nocera or Derrey needed to follow that par save with a birdie on 18 to force a playoff, and neither could deliver the putt.

Karine Icher played a remarkable final round, carded 64, and surged from her 15th place starting position up to 5th place, which she shared with South African Lee-Ann Pace.  Australian Rebecca Artis, who won the Helsingborg Open last week, also surged in the final round, matching Icher’s 64.  But like Icher, Artis had too far to climb in the single remaining round.  She ended the Lacoste Open at -9, in 7th place.

Still, with 4 Frenchwomen among the top 6 places at the Lacoste, local fans have a great deal to celebrate, and there’s always next year.  After all, this is golf, and hope springs eternal for that perfect winning round that will proclaim a national heroine!

Like the LPGA, the LET Tour heads to Asia now.  The Sanya Ladies Open, October 25-27, will be played at the Yalong Bay Golf Club in Yalong, China, followed in November by tournaments at Suzhou, China, New Delhi, India, and Rabat, Morocco.  I’ll be here throughout the Asian loop for both tours with tournament updates and reports.

 

Topics: Azahara Muñoz, Lacoste Ladies Open, Ladies European Tour

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