Sports Outside the Beltway

M.J. Hur wins Safeway Classic

Yet another South Korean ladies golfer won an LPGA tournament in 2009. Rookie MJ Hur beat Suzann Pettersen with a birdie on the second hole of sudden death.

The playoff was originally a three-way affair. Michelle Redman, winless on tour since 2000, three putted the 18th hole which was the first hole of sudden death. On the same hole Pettersen saw her birdie chance to win slip by the left side of the hole.

Pettersen and Hur then went to the 17th for the second hole of sudden death. 17 is a driveable par 4 but Hur and Pettersen laid up. Hur to the left, and Pettersen dangerously close to the water on the right. Hur put her approach shot to about 10 feet and after Pettersen missed her birdie putt, Hur rolled hers in.

Afterwards Hur ran away from a Korean compatriot who only wanted to douse her with champagne. Hur gave in and took her bath with a smile on her face.

Hur is the second surprise South Korean winner in the last two months. Like Eunjung Yi, Hur hadn’t shown much in 2009 before her win. Hur’s best finish was a 13th place finish. You could make an argument that the win was handed to her by Pettersen. Pettersen was -15 at one point today, then played holes 14 and 15 in bogey and double bogey. The double bogey was really disastrous since it took place on a par five. On 18, Pettersen drove it in the hazard but it bounced out. Pettersen who won all five of her LPGA triumphs in 2007, is building a record of Sunday failures since then.

Hur missed a couple of makable birdie putts on the back nine also. She made a clutch par putt on the 1st hole of sudden death after just missing the green with her approach.

Pettersen, Hur, and Redman finished at 13 under for 54 holes. Michelle Wie, Seon Hwa Lee, and Ai Miyazato finished tied for 4th, two shots back. Wie is hot right now. If not for her enrollment at Stanford and the thin LPGA schedule for the rest of 2009, I’d safely predict a win for her. She still may do it. Miyazato is another hot golfer at this time. Miyazato is starting to put herself in the Player of the Year picture for 2009.

Lorena Ochoa finished T49. Ochoa hasn’t had a top five finish since April. After dominating the LPGA for two years, you have to ask yourself what has caused her recent reversal. This is more than a slight slump.

Update- There are photos in the post now. I also wanted to note how Hur’s victory and the strong finishes by Michelle Wie and Anna Nordqvist(who won the LPGA Championship in June) have made the Rookie of the Year race much more interesting. The 2009 LPGA ROY was all but given to Ji Yai Shin before the season began. Shin has won twice this year and is #2 on the money list with a substantial ROY points lead but she isn’t going to win the award in a runaway.

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