Golf’s calendar girl won the Evian Masters yesterday.
EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France – Natalie Gulbis finally can be known for winning, too. Famous mostly for her looks through five-plus seasons on tour, Gulbis broke through Sunday, winning her first LPGA Tour title at the Evian Masters with a birdie on the first hole of a playoff with Jang Jeong of South Korea on Sunday.
Jang and the 24-year-old American finished the fourth round tied at 4-under 284. Gulbis had a final round 70, and Jang birdied the last hole to finish with a 72.
“Obviously it was meant to be for me,” Gulbis said. “Before the playoff, I was very upset at myself because I felt like I had given away this tournament. I thought I needed to get to 7 under to win and I end up at, what, four? Going in today, I never thought that four under would have won this tournament.”
Jang, the 2005 Women’s British Open champion, birdied three of the last four holes to tie Gulbis.
The tall, blond Gulbis has been one of the best-known players on the LPGA tour. She sells a calendar on her Web site featuring shots of her in athletic apparel and swimwear, has a reality show on The Golf Channel and her digitized likeness appears in Tiger Woods’ eponymous video game.
But until Sunday, she was never a champion.
“What does it mean? How long do you have?” Gulbis said. “I was really close last year when I lost a playoff and coincidentally it was right after the Match Play. It was like deja vu” coming off the HSBC Women’s World Match Play Championship last week.
Note Natalie’s two playoff appearances have come against South Korean ladies. One against a player nicknamed ‘Peanut’ and yesterday’s against a player some call ‘The Little Giant’. Both ROK ladies standing barely 5′ tall. Anyone else see a trend?
2005 British Open Champ Jang who has been in the top 15 three of the last five British Opens and no worse than 26th since 2002 has to be among the favorites next weekend at St. Andrews. Write that down Ron Sirak.
At the first extra hole, the 18th, Jang missed the green with her second shot, but Gulbis did not.
Top-ranked Lorena Ochoa was one shot behind and tied for third place with Juli Inkster of the United States and Shin Ji-yai of South Korea. Ochoa had six birdies in her closing 68, but dropped a shot at the last hole. Shin finished with a 72.
Inkster, the leader by two shots after the first three rounds, finished with a 75. She had three bogeys in the last five holes and three-putted the par-5 18th after reaching the green in two. Had she won, Inkster would have become the oldest player to win an LPGA Tour event.
Gulbis started the day four behind Inkster and had birdies at the first, sixth and ninth. Out in 33, she was 5 under and shared the lead with Shin.
Gulbis, who won $450,000, gave part of the credit for her win to a back injury two months ago that forced her to take a month off and make some adjustments.
Congratulations to Natalie on her first LPGA win. Want to bet she makes the cover of Golf World this week? Natalie is still overrated in my humble opinion, mostly because the Golf MSM mistake her looks for talent on the golf course also. That’s not to say Natalie won’t have a productive LPGA career. One thing is certain. We can stop making analogies between Natalie and Anna Kournikova.
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