Evian Championship: Suzann Pettersen clinches win

AFTER delays, suspensions and real fears that relentless rain would extend the outcome until the middle of this week, Suzann Pettersen managed to get her hands on the newest major title yesterday with a final round 68 at the Evian Championship.

Suzann Pettersen of Norway studies her putt before playing on the 18th hole. She won by two shots ahead of Lydia Ko. Picture: AP

Lydia Ko, the super-talented 16-year-old amateur, threatened throughout but eventually gave way to experience, although her time for stacking up the majors will surely come. She has already won four times playing alongside the professionals and, just last month, she retained the Canadian Open.

Pettersen finished on ten-under-par, with Ko two shots back after a 70. American 18-year-old Lexi Thompson was alone in third place on six-under following a 68.

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Ko actually led on her own yesterday after almost holing out for eagle with her second shot at the opening hole and she was still level with Pettersen after seven holes.

But the 32-year-old Norwegian, one of the stars of Europe’s Solheim Cup victory in Colorado last month, birdied the seventh from 25 feet and moved two ahead when her young playing partner failed to make par at the long 13th.

There were a couple more scary moments for Pettersen, notably at the 17th where she hit her drive into trees and had to chip out sideways. But a great third to four feet saved her par – and Ko missed a ten-foot 
birdie chance.

It was back-to-back LPGA victories for the world No 3 – she took the Safeway Classic in Oregon two weeks ago – and a 13th title on the Tour. In addition to a £315,000 cheque, what was most important was that it was a second major to set alongside the 2007 LPGA Championship.

“It’s great to win another major and this one has definitely been well worth waiting for,” said Pettersen. “Lydia is a great talent and she pushed me hard all day. I was actually really 
nervous coming down the stretch and even nearly played up short at the 18th [a par four over water]. But I said to my caddie I had to go for it and it worked out.”

Ko refuses to divulge exactly when she will join the paid ranks, but it must be soon. Already, she has “lost” close to a million pounds in prize money by staying amateur. Afterwards, she said: “Next time you see me I might be a professional.” She added: “It has been a great week. I didn’t take all my chances but Suzann played really well.”

With Thursday’s play having been a washout, it had been decided on Friday to cut the event to 54 holes. Even then, it was a race against time to get things completed by dark last night.

Overnight rain caused a two-hour delay to the start and more showers raised further concern. Heather Daly-Donofrio, in charge of Tour Operations for the LPGA, admitted: “It’s a miracle we got done.”

The fact that they did so was thanks to much hard graft. All 18 greens were put under cover on Saturday night and the hordes of green staff were helped by people from the surrounding Evian community to make the course playable.

One of the problems was that the Evian Resort Course had been ploughed up and rebuilt over the past nine months. The massive disruptions to the land meant it wasn’t draining as normal. The hope is that, when the championship returns to the same French venue next year, similar weather – ironically September is known as the “dry month” in these parts – will not cause so much disruption.

Catriona Matthew was the lone Scot in the field and never really reached full throttle in the weather-blighted week. 
She made the cut with nothing to spare but finished with a 74 and was outside the top 60 on seven-over-par.

A star of Europe’s Solheim Cup victory and winner of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Ladies’ Open in recent weeks, she will now have a short break before heading for the Asia swing of the LPGA Tour.

Inbee Park, the South Korean who won the first three majors of the year, also had a low-key championship. Having played with Matthew for the first two rounds, she closed with a 76 for eight-over-par.

It was a shame for the championship that it was hit by so many weather problems. But the challenge from Ko and a winner of Pettersen’s class meant it all ended on a high note.