Posted by: happyfan08 | January 18, 2009

2008 Awards: Heartbreaker of the Year

 Se Ri loses Canadian Open

In round one of this event, which has only once been won by a Korean golfer, a familiar name rose to the top of the leaderboard: Lorena Ochoa.  Annika Sorenstam, a three time winner in 2008, was second.  But in third place were three Koreans: Meena Lee, Hee Won Han and Se Ri Pak.  For Se Ri, it had been a disappointing 2008 season to that point.  She had contended for a while at the year’s first Major, the Kraft Nabisco, although no one was going to beat Ochoa that week.  She also had a top ten at the Ginn Tribute.  But she had also missed the cut at the US Women’s Open for the first time in her career, and had a fairly lackluster performance at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, an event where she was the defending champion.  She also had missed the cut at the British Open two weeks before the Canadian Open.  Could she finally turn her season around and capture a win?

 

After round two, it looked like Ochoa might be in another one of her winning modes; she moved to 10 under total, tied with Yani Tseng for the lead.  Pak was hanging in there at 6 under, still playing well.  But she needed to play better to get a chance.

 

Se Ri Pak drives in the second round of the Canadian Women's Open

Se Ri Pak drives in the second round of the Canadian Women's Open

She got that chance on Saturday, paired with her old nemesis Annika Sorenstam.  It was like old times, seeing these two rivals going toe to toe with a tournament on the line.  And Se Ri delivered.  She started with two early birdies, then made her first ever career hole in one on the 5th hole.  It had taken her just five holes to move into a tie for the lead with Ochoa and Tseng.

 

By the end of the day, however, Yani Tseng reasserted herself and moved to 14 under total.  She had a four shot lead over Se Ri and would be paired with her on Sunday in the final group.  In third were Lorena Ochoa and Katherine Hull at 8 under, still in it but barely.  This looked like Se Ri’s best chance to win a tournament in ages, but she needed some help from Major winner Tseng to do it.

 

On Sunday, Se Ri started horribly with several bad holes out of the gate.  But what really killed her was a 4 putt double bogey from short distance on the 6th hole.  Tseng was also playing badly, and the two of them fell back to the field, allowing Katherine Hull and Ochoa to be a factor.  Tseng hit the wall with a terrible performance on the 11th hole, where she twice muffed chips from near the green and made double bogey.  Se Ri, however, was playing steadily at 9 under, and was still in the mix.  She made an unfortunate bogey on the 16th, but made another birdie on 17 to move back to 9 under par.

 

But with Katherine Hull at 11 under, Se Ri was going to need help.  Hull had never won on tour before, but she certainly didn’t act like it.  She cruised into the house with all pars in the final four holes.  That meant that Se Ri needed an eagle on the final par 5 hole to catch Hull and force a playoff.  Remember that Pak had never lost a playoff in her LPGA career, so if she could just catch Hull, she had a great chance to take the title.  Alas, Se Ri ended up in the greenside bunker in two shots, and now had to pitch in from the sand.  Amazingly, she nearly did it, but had to settle for a tap in birdie and a solo second.  It was her best finish of 2008, but had her putting been halfway decent on the front nine, the result might have been very different.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Na Yeon Choi blows 4 shot lead at Evian

Na Yeon Choi had been having a phenomenal rookie campaign when she got to France to play this high profile event.  Despite the fact that her rival Yani Tseng had won a Major, Choi was still in the lead in the Rookie of the Year standings at this point in the season.  But Tseng was continuing to play well week after week, and if Choi were going to win the Rookie title, a win would certainly help her. 

 

Through three rounds, Choi was playing well; she had reached 9 under, and was five shots behind leader Angela Park, who was also looking for her first career win.  It didn’t look likely that Choi was going to win the event, but another top finish would go a long way to that rookie title.

 

But in round 4, Angela struggled out of the gate, while Choi was on fire.  She had birdies on three of her first four holes, and from holes 7 – 13 birdied all but one hole.  It was getting downright ridiculous when, on the 12th hole, she hit a shot from the trees to five feet and made birdie.  By 13 she was 8 under on the day and had a four shot lead.  All she needed to do, it seemed, was par out, and there were still two par fives to come.

 

At that point, Choi started making nervous mistakes.  She had a bad tee shot on 15, but played conservatively and managed a bogey.  She did the same thing on 16 for a second bogey to fall to 15 under.  Meanwhile, Helen Alfredsson started making long putts for birdie from everywhere, and by the time Choi reached the 18th hole, her lead was down to one.  Still, if she birdied, she would probably win.  She hit a terrible drive, though, had to punch out, and could not make birdie.  Alfredsson reached the green in two, but missed the eagle.  She made another lengthy birdie, though, and tied for the lead.  Angela Park, meanwhile, rallied, and was herself only one shot out of the lead.  She gave herself a great eagle chance on 18, but missed it and made the three foot comebacker for birdie.  This meant that there would be a three way playoff for the title.  Once again, Koreans would have a chance to win this event, which no Korean had ever won, in a playoff.  Jeong Jang had lost a playoff at this very event to Natalie Gulbis in 2007.

 

On the first playoff hole, Angela hit her drive right and had to lay up.  She hit her third not too close, but hit a great putt that lipped out.  She made par.  Choi ended up in the bunker, but pitched out to a foot for birdie.  So, Angela was out.  Alfredsson had an eagle chance, missed it, but made yet another long birdie try.  On the second playoff hole, Alfie missed the fairway, laid up, and hit her third to about 12 feet.  Choi had an eagle try, missed it, made birdie.  Amazingly, Alfredsson hit yet another long putt to stay alive.  She finally put it away on the third playoff hole.  She deserved the win, but Choi really let this one slip out of her hands.  It was just one of those weeks where the stars seemed aligned against the impressive young star.  Her second place finish gave her the lead, albeit temporarily, in the ROY race over Tseng, but as of the end of the season, she would still be looking for her breakthrough win on tour.

 

Ji Young Oh coughs up MasterCard

Ji Young Oh had had a decent if unspectacular rookie campaign in 2007, and easily maintained her exempt status for 2008.  In 2008, she was playing noticeably better.  Still, it was somewhat of a surprise when she ripped off a bunch of birdies in round 2 of the MasterCard Classic in Mexico to take a two shot lead as the day ended.  The table was set for her to not only get her first win on tour, but to end the lengthy winless drought the Koreans had been suffering through.  Given that Lorena Ochoa was practically unstoppable at this period in time, you had to take advantage of any event where she was not at the top of her game.

 

Alas, the nerves got to Oh, and she completely tanked in round 3.  She was two over par at the turn, and still had a chance to get the title.  But on the back, she kept making mistakes, eventually shooting a dismal 79 to plunge off the leaderboard.  The eventual winner was a rookie who shot a 65 to charge from way back to take the title.

 

The story has a happy ending, however.  Oh was able to get her first win later in the year at the State Farm Classic.  Perhaps she learned something from her struggles in Mexico.

 

Creamer breaks Se Ri Pak’s 61 at Farr

This one really hurt.  Just four days after winning her second Major in a row in her rookie year of 1998, Se Ri Pak had established the all time scoring record on the LPGA tour when she shot a 10 under par 61 at the Jamie Farr Classic in Ohio.  The record had stood for several years, until Annika Sorenstam shot a 59 in Arizona in 2001.  But Pak’s tournament record of 61 was untouched until this year, when Paula Creamer (the player who took Pak’s caddie Colin Cann from her) shot a 60 in the first round of the tournament.  Coming in a year when several other Pak records were also removed from the record books (both on the KLPGA courtesy of Ji Yai Shin, and as the youngest US Women’s Open winner, thanks to Inbee Park), this one was another body blow to Se Ri’s legacy.

 

 

 

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