Rolex Rankings No. 6 Suzann Pettersen managed to hold off a red-hot Lizette Salas in Sunday’s final round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf, making par on the first hole of a playoff to capture her 11th career LPGA victory. Pettersen shot a 5-under 67 on the final day of play but needed every single birdie, as Salas tied the lowest score to par this season on the LPGA Tour with a 10-under 62 to finish tied with Pettersen at 19-under-par.
“I played very solid today,” Pttersen said. “Obviously a little easier conditions, so I just tried to stick with my own game plan, didn't really look behind me. I looked at one scoreboard, I think that was on 8, and I saw people were still making a lot of birdies, I said let's still keep this going. Made one errant tee shot, cost me ‑‑ I managed to get a bogey. But other than that I putted great, another round with somewhere about 27 putts, so at least the hurdle that's been ‑‑ that I've been fighting before, it's kind of letting go now, and that's how you win tournaments.”
Pettersen began the day with a one-shot lead over the field but it was Salas, who started the day five shots back, who made the big run to catch up to the third-round leader. On a day when the winds were relatively calm at Ko Olina Golf Club in Hawaii, players took advantage of the great scoring conditions. None more so than Salas who shot 33-29 and nearly sank another birdie putt on 18 that would have tied her with Pettersen, who had one hole remaining.
Still Salas would get another shot at a victory when Pettersen, who missed the fairway on 18, made bogey on her final hole to drop her back into a tie at 19-under-par. For Salas, it marked her first career playoff on the LPGA Tour while Pettersen was playing in her seventh, having gone 4-2 in her previous six playoff experiences.
The playoff would once again go Pettersen’s way. After Pettersen hit her approach shot on the green on the 18th in the playoff, Salas got up to hit hers and ended up chunking her iron shot into the water in front of 18. That pretty much sealed the victory for Pettersen, who said afterward that she was impressed by the play of the 23-year-old University of Southern California graduate.
“I'm like, oh, my God, where did she start this day because I didn't remember seeing her next to my name on the list yesterday,” Pettersen said of seeing Salas at 18-under after she made a birdie of her own on 15. “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.”
Despite the difficult finish for Salas in the playoff, she certainly provided plenty of entertainment in the final round as she put on a golfing clinic while chasing down Pettersen. After making birdie on two of her first three holes, Salas caught on fire over her last 11 holes. She went birdie, birdie, eagle on holes No. 8-10 and finished that stretch by holing out for eagle on her second shot from 169 yards with a 6-iron. After a par on No. 11, Salas went on to birdie five straight holes to put the pressure on Pettersen.
Pettersen hit a roadbump on the par-5 13th when a truck sounded in the middle of her backswing and her drive ended up bouncing off the cart path. She was forced to take a provisional for the lost ball and was sitting in the fairway in three. Pettersen rebounded to make bogey on the hole to keep a one-shot lead but it turned into a back-and-forth battle from there with Salas ase the two players exchanged birdies over the next few holes. That is until Pettersen’s bogey on 18 forced the playoff and unfortunately for Salas, she couldn’t duplicate the magic of her round in the playoff.
“The playoff, I can't really say much just because the swing was so fast,” Salas said. “The only good thing about that chunk is that I was coming in from the inside playing wise, not the outside, which I've been working on. Chunk is not bad, but if you have water it's really bad. But I still had a chance, and that putt didn't go in. Not everything is going to fall, but I played my butt off today.
Inbee Park shot a final-round 67 to finish in a tie for fourth at 13-under-par and secure her No. 1 ranking for at least another week. Stacy Lewis, who is currently ranked No. 2 in the world, couldn’t make up enough ground to try and regain the No. 1 position as she shot a 1-under 71 to finish in a tie for ninth at 10-under.