Sunday, August 05, 2007


World No 1 Lorena Ochoa impressively claimed her first major title - almost certainly the first of many - with a closing round of 74 in the Ricoh Women's British Open at St Andrews today.
In the first women's professional event to be held over the Old Course, the 25-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico finished on five under par 287 and won by four shots from Sweden's Maria Hjorth and South Korean Jee-Young Lee.
Six ahead at the start of the final round, Ochoa made three birdies in first nine holes and her lead was never threatened.
Her only minor scare was at the par-5 17th where she hit her second into an almost unplayable lie in the Road Hole bunker and had to play out sideways, but she eventually salvaged a bogey 6.
(The image above of Lorena sitting on the Swilken Bridge with the trophy is from the Ladies European Tour website).
North Berwick's Catriona Matthew, level par for the day, was the best of the British players in a tie for seventh on two over par. She bounced back from a third-round 80 with a par 73 which looked like being a 71 or a 72 until the last few holes.
Another Scot, Mhairi McKay, had a day to remember. She had eight birdies in a six under par 67 - equalling the professional course record set by Ochoa in round one - and bolted up the leaderboard into joint 11th place on three over. Mhairi held the women's amateur course record, set in a St Rule Trophy tournament, until Denise Becker (Germany) lowered it in June this year. Mhairi, now 32, said: "I'm really proud of the way I played today.
"It's been terrific to have the British Open at St Andrews for a first time and today should take me a long way to retaining my full card on next year's LPGA Tour." The money counts towards her total earnings in the States.
Melissa Reid, the gifted teenager from Chevin in Derbyshire, shot a final-round 72 and won the Smyth Salver for the leading amateur on four over par. In a way this was a remarkable treble for Curtis Cup and Vagliano Trophy player Melissa. On her last two visits North of the Border this year, she won the "Helen Holm" Scottish open stroke-play at Troon, followed by the St Rule Trophy at St Andrews.
Melissa felt she could have done even better. “I hit the ball really well all week, and I played really, really steady. I can’t complain - but I left a few putts out there.
“I three-putted the last three holes of the third round. The conditions then were really bad but I hit it probably the best I did all week and I was gutted about the putting.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant but I thought I had a chance of winning and if my putter had been on I would have been a contender.”
Melissa signed off with a one-under par 72, which reflected her steady play with two birdies and one bogey. “You’d always take shooting under par in a major,” she said. It gave her a four-over par total for the event.
Despite her success, which follows a top ten finish in the Ladies European Tour's English Open, she is determined to stick to her plan to stay amateur until the end of 2008.
This is great news for the victory prospects of the GB&I team in next year's Curtis Cup match ... over the Old Course.
A final word of praise for the third Scot to play all four rounds of this historic Women's British Open - 16 year old Sally Watson from South Queensferry via the David Leadbetter Golf Academy at Bradenton, Florida where she has been a resident student since last autumn.
Sally finished joint 50th on 12-over-par 304, signing off with a par-matching 73 - her second 73 of the tournament.
Miss Watson had to come through two qualifying events - a 2hr play-off in the second one at the start of the week - to claim her place among the world-class elite of women's golf.
Then she finishes ahead of several very good players, including from the amateur ranks, Anna Nordqvist (Sweden) who has played in the finals of the last two British women's open amateur championships, and English women's champion, Naomi Edwards (Ganton), winner of the St Rule Trophy last year.
Well done, Sally!
Par 292 (4 x 73). Money won listed in Euros.
287 L Ochoa (Mex) 67 73 73 74 (160,000).
291 Jee Young Lee (SKor) 72 73 75 71, M Hjorth (Swe) 75 73 72 71 (85,000 each).
292 R Rankin (US) 73 74 71 71 (55,000).
293 Eun Hee Ji (SKor) 73 71 77 72, Se Ri Pak (SKor) 73 73 75 72 (42,000 each).
294 Miki Saiki (Jap) 76 70 81 67, P Creamer (US) 73 75 74 72, C Matthew (Sco) 73 68 80 73, L Wessberg (Swe) 74 73 72 75 (30,500 each)).
295 M McKay (Sco) 75 74 79 67, Y Fudoh (Jap) 74 69 81 71, In-Bee Park (SKor) 69 79 76 71, Na On Min (SKor) 72 75 75 73, B Lincicome (US) 71 76 75 73.
296 B Brewerton (Wal) 74 75 74 73, A Sorenstam (Swe) 72 71 77 76, K Icher (Fra) 72 71 77 76, G Park (SKor) 74 75 71 71 (14,041 each), M Reid (Eng) (am) 73 75 76 72.
Other totals:
299 K Webb (Aus) 77 73 74 75 (jt 28th) (9,100).
300 T Johnson (Eng) 75 75 77 73 (jt 33rd) (7,016).
301 R Hudson (Eng) 70 73 82 76, K Stupples (Eng) 75 72 78 76 (5,250 each), K Smith (Eng) (am) 77 74 80 70 (jt 42nd).
304 S Watson (Sco) (am) 78 73 80 73 (jt 50th).
306 A Nordqvist (Swe) (am) 76 75 84 71 (jt 58th).
312 N Edwards (Eng) (am) 74 77 86 75 (69th).