Sunday was a dream come true for 8-year LPGA veteran Teresa Lu. She came from behind Sunday to earn her first LPGA victory at the Mizuno Classic in Shima-Shi, Japan! Rolex Ranked 65, Taiwan’s Lu did not look like she was even in contention at the end of the 1st round. She shot 70, 3 bogeys muting the birdies on her scorecard and leaving her in a large pack of players sharing 11th place going into the 2nd round. Then she began to get the course figured out. She carded a bogey-free 68 in her 2nd round and climbed up the board for a share of 6th. Lu came alive in the 3rd round Sunday. She birdied half the holes, gave back a stroke with a bogey early in the front 9, and went to the clubhouse 14 shots under par and 2 shots better than runner-up, South Korea’s Chella Choi.
I’ve been waiting for this day for so long . . . it’s been eight years on Tour. I’m really happy. Really nervous and really happy.
Teresa Lu, Mizuno Classic Champion
Choi and Lu were both on the outside-looking-in when the Sunday round began, sitting two-shots behind a Japanese trio who were tied for the first. Choi took the early lead after carding her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 ninth hole, while Lu, who played one group behind her, made the turn at 2-under and tied for second.
For a few holes, it seemed there might be a chance Choi’s father would be able to go home to Korea and retire. He’s agreed to caddie for Choi until she records her first LPGA win. But it wasn’t to be, not this time. Lu sprinted to the outright lead with four-straight birdies on Nos. 11, 12, 13 and 14 and Choi’s father will stay on the bag.
Choi, Rolex Ranked 32, has touched the top of the leaderboard on numerous occasions since joining the LPGA Tour in 2009. Until the 2013 Mizuno the closest she’s come to a win was the 2012 Manulife Financial LPGA Classic. She was the last to fall to American Brittany Lang in a four-way playoff that included Inbee Park and Hee Kyung Seo. She’s recorded 16 top-10 finishes since then and has held the lead in two events this season including the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic and the Wegmans LPGA Championship.
American Brittany Lincicome, who was looking good for a top finish if not the win going into the final round, struggled from one disaster to the next on Sunday. Three bogeys and 2 doubles left Lincicome with a shattering final round score of 77, 5 shots over par and a tumble down the board from a share of 4th place to a tie for 30th.
Defending champ and Rolex Ranked 3 Stacy Lewis, who hoped for another come-from-behind win, never got her game fired up. She finished the Mizuno at -7 and a tie for 8th place.
The Mizuno Classic brings to a close the LPGA Asia 4-event series. The Tour returns to the Western Hemisphere for the final events of the 2013 season, the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex Info, November 14-17 at the Guadalajara County Club in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the CME Group Titleholders, November 21-24 in Naples, Florida.
Rolex Ranked 15 Christie Kerr is the defending champion at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. She has her work cut out for her. Rolex Ranked No. 1 Inbee Park, No. 2 Suzann Pettersen, and No. 3 Stacy Lewis are all in the field and they will all be on the hunt for a victory. Solheim superstar, Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall, will challenge the field with her powerful drives and American Lexi Thompson, fresh from her win at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia will also be playing for a win. It’s going to be a splendid event!
I’ll take a closer look at the star-studded field for the Lorena Ochoa Invitational on Wednesday, in time for all of us to place our bets!