Three weeks remain until the 2013 Solheim Cup but Sundayâ€™s final round of the Marathon Classic Presented by Owens Corning and O-I certainly had the look and feel of a dramatic singles matches between the United States and Europe.
Beatriz Recari of Spain and American Paula Creamer provided a duel to the finish at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio as Recari sank a 4-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to capture her second victory of the 2013 season and the third of her career.
Recari shot a 17-under 267 for the tournament which was just enough to edge Creamer who was just one stroke behind with a 16-under 268.
Australia`s Katherine Hull-Kirk finished at 3-under par in a tie for 33rd while Sarah-Jane Smith finished in a tie for 48th.
â€œI still can`t believe it, because I was so focused for the last two rounds to just keep cool and just focus on my game,â€ said Recari. â€œBecause like Paula said, she played amazing for two days. It was really a competition. It was like who was going to stick it close and who was going to make a putt.â€
Recari and Creamer entered the day tied for the lead at 12-under-par, three shots clear of their competitors. The two kept themselves separated from the field but could never quite shake each other as they traded birdies throughout the day. Creamer said the battle certainly has a Solheim Cup feel.
â€œOh, definitely,â€ said Creamer. â€œI felt it, I know she probably did out there, a little pre game into Solheim. I love match play. It felt like match play, yes. But at the same time, you`re playing the golf course. Coming down the stretch of course you`re playing each other. But it was good. Definitely has your juices going for the next couple of weeks.â€
After they each picked up three birdies on the front nine and made the turn tied at 15-under par, Recari finally broke the deadlock on the par-3 14th. The 26-year old took the lead with an impressive 12-foot birdie putt and moved ahead by one stroke lead, which she would not relinquish.
The pair both went par-birdie-par on the next three holes and headed for the final showdown of what had been a thrilling round.
Fans crowded the 18th hole to catch a glimpse of the 2008 winner, as she tried her best of force a playoff. Creamer knocked her third shot to the fringe on the back of the green, leaving herself a tough but very makeable 18-foot birdie putt. Recari followed with her attempt at the green out of the rough which ended up too strong and bounced off the back of the green and a playoff suddenly seemed more than possible.
Recari shook off the pressure and chipped within four feet of the hole, leaving all the pressure on Creamer to make her birdie putt. The crowd watched in awed silence as Creamer took her stance and sent the ball toward the hole but it edged just past and she took a tap-in to make par.
Recari then calmly stepped up and made her winning putt as a wave of relief rushed over her face. The duel was finally over and the Spaniard has emerged the victor.
â€œI was definitely shaking a little bit,â€ said Recari. â€œI knew that I had to make it to win and avoid a playoff. Playoff is always nerve wracking or you`re even and it can go either way.
â€œIn Kia I won the playoff, but really I took a couple breaths and said, â€˜Okay, just read the putt, put a good stroke, and just be calm.â€™ It went in, so I`m happy. I`m just really happy. Like I said, just all came down to the last putt.â€
The Spaniard was coming off her first missed cut in 46 consecutive starts at the U.S. Womenâ€™s Open at Sebonack and said the win this week was the perfect affirmation that her game is right back on track.
â€œIt`s definitely a boost of confidence because you never like to miss a cut,â€ said Recari. â€œBut I felt really good. I said it two days ago: I took a lot of positives from that week. I didn`t miss the cut because my game was poor; it was other factors that I let influence myself.
â€œI mean, I played great on Friday, so obviously my game was fine. It was something that happened and I learned from it. But it`s definitely very relieving to bounce back and post a good score, and to win is a bonus. But like I said, I`m just very happy with how I played the last four days. That`s what I`m proud of.â€
Recari is projected to move to No. 17 in the Rolex Womenâ€™s World Golf Rankings which will also help solidify her spot on the European Solheim Cup Team. Sheâ€™s currently ranked in the 8th spot where positions 4-8 are based on the Rolex Rankings. She said she thought the final round today was great preparation for August when Europe will try to defend their title. Recari will make her first Solheim Cup appearance and said she learned from Creamerâ€™s consistency on Sunday.
â€œIt totally felt like Solheim Cup for the last two days,â€ said Recari. â€œShe is very experienced player in Solheim Cup and I`ll be a rookie. It was great to play with her, to learn, because she`s so consistent.â€
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park closed out her week with a 1-over 72 to finish at 3-under par in a tie for 33rd. It was her worst finish since the ShopRite LPGA Classic on June 2nd when she finished T38. Park will have the week off before she heads to the Old Course at St. Andrews in pursuit of her fourth-consecutive major championship.
The South Korean will be the first male or female golfer to play for four-straight professional major championships in one season.