Jennifer Rosales looks as if she could be ready for a breakout season on the LPGA. So does 15-year-old amateur Michelle Wie.
Rosales, 26, went wire-to-wire at the season-opening SBS Open at Turtle Bay, never trailing after opening with a 6-under-par 66 in Round 1. She shot 1-over-par 73 in a windy final round Feb. 26 to finish the tournament at 8-under 208, two shots ahead of Wie (70) and Cristie Kerr (72). Second-year player Reilley Rankin (75) finished a career-best fourth at 4-under 212.
For Rosales, who earned her second career title, it was another stepping stone toward becoming a consistent LPGA winner. In addition to her victory at last year’s Chick-fil-A Charity Championship, the colorful Filipino contended at the McDonald’s LPGA Championship, the U.S. Women’s Open and the season-ending ADT Championship.
“It feels really good because at the end of the year I was really close,” she said. “The Open, the (ADT) Championship – it just kills me every time I give it away. Last night, before I went to sleep, I thought about what I was going to do today and what my game plan was. I wanted to take it one shot at a time, don’t panic, keep breathing and that is what I did.”
Rosales, who earned $150,000, led Rankin by two going into the final round and built her lead to as many as four before surviving wind gusts of more than 30 mph, an early run by Kerr and a brief back-nine charge by Wie. The Honolulu teen-ager, who lives little more than an hour from Turtle Bay, had the full support of the gallery as she tried to become the youngest golfer to win an LPGA event.
“I heard a lot of roars from the crowd – I knew it was her,” Rosales said. “She’s an amazing player. There’s no doubt about it. She’s going to give us a lot of challenges and make us work harder.”
Rosales birdied two of her first six holes, but stumbled with a double bogey on No. 7 when her second shot from the deep rough fell short of the green into the water. She later made bogeys on Nos. 13 and 15, leaving an opening for her opponents. But no one was able to take advantage.
Kerr’s birdie on the par-3 eighth pulled her within a stroke, but after her group received a slow-play warning, she struggled on the back nine with four bogeys and two birdies.
Wie had two bogeys on the front nine to go along with a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 8. She knocked in birdies on Nos. 11-12 to reach 5 under, but couldn’t get closer, making five consecutive pars before a tap-in for birdie on the final hole.
“This is the best finish I have had and it feels great to have it in my home state,” said Wie, who was the only player to break par all three rounds. “It feels good.
“I feel my game is getting a lot better, and I’ll just keep getting better and hopefully I can get to the top.”
Many think she’s already there.
“She is a veteran at 15, if she can be called that,” Kerr said. “She has an amazing game. . . . She is going to be really, really good for our tour. I just hope our tour is ready.”
– Staff and wire reports