American Stacy Lewis won the HSBC Women’s Champions on Sunday for her sixth career LPGA Tour title, overcoming two bogeys and some shaky putting on the back nine to hold off South Korea’s Na Yeon Choi.
Lewis, the 2012 LPGA Player of the Year, shot a 1-under-par 71 in the final round at Sentosa Golf Club to finish at 15-under 273, one stroke ahead of Choi.
”The last four or five holes, I was pretty nervous. I’m not going to lie,” Lewis said. ”I just played hard and put my head down and tried to make as many putts as I could, and, fortunately, I came away with the win.”
Choi, who had a 72, was runner-up at the tournament for the second consecutive year. She lost to Angela Stanford in a four-player playoff last year.
Paula Creamer, hampered by a shoulder injury from a car accident last week in Thailand, briefly held a share of the lead early in the day but struggled with her putting on the back nine and faded to a 71 to finish third at 13 under.
Top-ranked Yani Tseng shot a 74 to finish a disappointing week in a share of 28th place.
Lewis started the day tied with Choi atop the leaderboard, but she was able to gain some distance with a superb shot on the par-5 seventh hole.
After a long drive off the tee, Lewis hit a perfectly placed, 200-yard shot toward the pin that stopped about five inches short of going in for an albatross. She tapped it in for eagle, which put her one clear of Choi and two up on Creamer.
”It was probably one of the best shots I’ve ever hit,” Lewis said. ”It had to be pretty close. I couldn’t really tell from where I was but it was perfect.”
On the back nine, however, the 28-year-old American had to battle nerves and a determined challenge by Choi.
Leading by two shots on the 15th, Lewis hit her tee shot into the water for the second time this week and slammed her club into the turf in frustration. She took a bogey on the hole, allowing Choi to pull within one.
”I hit the fairway (on 15) in the practice rounds, but I did not hit it on any tournament day,” she said. ”I had two in the water and two in the bunker.”
”Today I was just glad to get out of there with a bogey.”
Then, on the 17th, Lewis hit into the bunker off the tee and missed a long par putt to card her second bogey of the back nine.
That gave Choi one last chance to even the score on the 18th, but she pulled her birdie putt wide by an inch. Lewis exhaled deeply after making her own par putt for the win.
”I tried to do my best until the last hole,” Choi said. ”Last year, I finished runner-up, too. I went into the playoff and lost. I really wanted to win this week.”
Lewis and Choi had their putting woes, but it was almost worse for the 26-year-old Creamer, who was aiming for her 10th LPGA title.
She missed a 20-footer for eagle on No. 12 by inches, covering her mouth in disbelief. Then she barely missed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 14 and started laughing. Two more near-misses followed on No. 15 and 16, which wiped the smile from her face.
”I had some good, long efforts and they just didn’t fall in. Sometimes it’s your day and sometimes it’s not,” she said.
Creamer never dreamed she’d be this close to the title after the car accident on the way to the airport in Bangkok after the LPGA Honda Thailand tournament last week.
She slammed her right shoulder into the dashboard of the car and woke up Thursday morning still numb from the injury. Her caddie, Colin Cann, and fellow golfer Ai Miyazato were also injured. Miyazato withdrew before the tournament began with soreness in her back, neck and head.
Creamer set low expectations for her chances, which may have taken the pressure off.
”This is much more than what I even bargained for. Didn’t even know if I was going to tee it up, and taking a third after what Colin and I have been through, it’s pretty good,” she said.
It was a tough week for Tseng, who was never a factor after the first day. The five-time major winner hasn’t won a tournament in nearly a year and could soon lose her top ranking to Choi or Lewis, who moves up to third after this week.
”I didn’t hit the ball very well this week but it’s OK. You know you always have next year to come back here,” she said.
”World No. 1, I know it’s good and people like it, but I want to care about myself more and I just want to enjoy (my golf),” she said. ”If I lose (it), I’ll get back one day, too.”