Notes: Salas falters with 79; Ko takes low amateur

Lizette Salas hits her tee shot on the third hole during the final round of the Kraft Nabisco.

Lizette Salas hits her tee shot on the third hole during the final round of the Kraft Nabisco.

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Lizette Salas’ caddie Greg Puga said his player wasn’t overly nervous on the first tee. Just before she teed it up in the final group with Inbee Park, trailing by three shots, Salas made the sign of the cross, like she always does.

“She seemed just like she did Saturday,” Puga said.

From there, however, Sunday took a very different turn. Salas, a four-time All-American at USC, began the day by pulling her opening drive into the left rough, moving her ball just a few feet with a 7-iron before punching out with a 9-iron on her way to double bogey. Park birdied, which meant the separation between the two players went from three strokes to six.

After three bogeys on the back nine and another double-bogey at No. 17, Salas finished with a final-round 79 that moved her to T-25. As Park jumped into Poppie’s Pond, Salas stood outside the scoring tent and signed autographs for close to half an hour. She drew an overwhelming crowd of crimson-and-gold covered fans.

“It’s just a learning experience for me, and I’m really upset, but I just have to look back and say, ‘Look how far I’ve come from last year to this year.’ ”

• • •

SOLID ENDING: After a final-round 68 that moved Caroline Hedwall from T-9 to T-3, she’s not going to Disneyland, but rather Augusta. The Swede has never been to the Masters, and is using her LPGA card to get down Magnolia Lane. Ah, the perks of being a member of the LPGA tour.

Hedwall’s day was made from Nos. 9-12. She finished the front side with a birdie, made another on No. 10, then holed a wedge from 80 yards for eagle before making another birdie at No. 12.

“Of course it gives me a lot of confidence,” she said of her finish. “I’m very happy with this week. Finally on the back nine, I found my putting and my posture. I’ve been looking for it all week and all of a sudden I just found it. That’s when I started to get my confidence back and I felt really good during the last couple of holes.”

It’s Hedwall’s best finish in a major, and a welcome finish for the European Solheim Cupper. She says she’ll concentrate on playing the LPGA tour for the rest of the year rather than trying to split time between the LPGA and LET.

• • •

EARLY CHASER: It became apparent Saturday evening that if someone was going to catch Park on Sunday, she would have to come out of the gate aggressively. Early Sunday afternoon, it looked like that player might be Cristie Kerr.

Kerr, who counts a U.S. Women’s Open and the LPGA Championship among her 14 career victories, started the day T-17. Back-to-back birdies at Nos. 2 and 3, and again at Nos. 8 and 9, had her at 4 under as Park opened her round.

The back side wasn’t nearly as kind. Kerr opened with a bogey at No. 10, then made another out of the left rough at No. 16. She drove her ball into a bunker on No. 18, nearly walked in a birdie putt from across the green, then missed the comebacker for one final bogey.

Bryan Lebedevitch, Kerr’s instructor, was on hand for the round. He said the two had worked on freeing up Kerr’s putting, which explains her success on the front side. Greens at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course are tough to read, which is what made the difference.

“She hit the ball beautifully this week,” Lebedevitch said.

After the round – during which Kerr had 30 putts – she tweeted detailed instructions on how to break a putter, which she did in the parking lot before giving away the pieces to a “nice kid”:

“Steps to killing your putter: inspect that no one is around, coach holds it at a 45 degree angle, apply pressure to the shaft. Ensuring that Soft spikes have good grip . . . then apply angry force (kudos to the shaft company/was really difficult!) apply more angry force. Snap. Give away”

• • •

LOW AMATEUR: Not surprisingly, 15-year-old Lydia Ko took home low amateur honors at the end of the tournament. It’s the third time in the last four majors Ko has done that. She didn’t play in last year’s Wegman’s LPGA Championship.

“Low am was one of my goals coming in, so I’m very happy and excited to get low am,” Ko said.

Ko began the day in a tie for 39th, but shot a final-round 69 to climb into a tie for 25th. It was her best round by two shots. From Rancho Mirage, Ko heads to Hawaii to play the LPGA Lotte Championship, the next event on the LPGA schedule.

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