SYLVANIA, Ohio (AP) — The head-to-head duel between Beatriz Recari and Paula Creamer in the final round of the Marathon Classic on Sunday was great theater.
Don’t be surprised if there’s a sequel.
Recari rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole to take the lead for good and hung on to hold off Creamer for her third LPGA Tour title.
They started the day tied and spent most of the day trading the lead — as if it were match play. The duel in the heat in suburban Toledo might have been foreshadowing for when both players participate in next month’s Solheim Cup at the Colorado Golf Club, Recari for the European side and Paula Creamer for the United States.
“Back and forth, back and forth,” Recari said of their Sunday showdown. “It totally felt like the Solheim Cup.”
Recari and Creamer, who won the tournament then known as the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic five years ago, started the day tied for first, three shots ahead of their nearest pursuers. They traded the lead — never separated by more than one stroke — and were still even until Recari birdied the par-3 14th.
The 26-year-old Recari closed with a 5-under 66 to finish at 17-under 267. She missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 17th, but made a clutch 5-footer for par at the 18th.
Creamer, who was seeking her 10th career win and first since the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open, finished with a 67. She said she gave it everything she had.
“My goodness, there were so many great shots played today,” Creamer said. “Do I wish I could go back and maybe change a couple of things here and there? Yes. But I played great. Beatriz just played one shot better.”
Jodi Ewart Shadoff (66) shared third place at 13 under with Lexi Thompson, who shot a 67 and had a hole-in-one that won the 18-year-old a car.
Next came Angela Stanford (67) and Jacqui Cocolino (70) at 19 under. Meena Lee had the day’s low round, a 62, and was with amateur sensation Lydia Ko (68), Toledo-born Stacy Lewis (64), Jennifer Johnson (66) and Chie Arimura (71) at 9 under.
Playing in the same threesome, Creamer took the lead twice with birdies — on the third and fifth holes — and each time Recari came right back with a birdie on the next hole to knot things. At the seventh hole, Creamer hit her approach to 6 feet and appeared to have a certain birdie, but Recari rolled in a 15-footer before she could.
Still in lockstep through 13 holes, there was a lot of fireworks on the 181-yard, par-3 14th. Recari hit her hybrid to 12 feet and Creamer’s shot ended up 25 feet away. The third member of their group, Thompson, the budding 18-year-old American star-in-the-making, then holed her 6-iron to win a new car. She slapped high fives with her caddie, then happily accepted congratulations from everyone along the rope line all the way to the green.
After Creamer almost rolled in her lengthy birdie putt, Recari took the lead for good by making hers.
The two then traded birdies at the par-4 16th. Creamer’s wedge to the green left her just 3 feet away, but Recari rammed in a 25-foot uphill birdie putt to negate Creamer’s eventual 3 on the hole.
“I had a really good read,” Recari said. “I stroked it and the hole got in the way.”
The drama continued at the 17th, the first of back-to-back par-5 closing holes.
Creamer laid up with a wedge. Recari then pulled out a hybrid and uncharacteristically went for the green, pulling it slightly to the left where it ended up in the rough. Creamer then hit a wedge to 12 feet and Recari skied a flop shot that ended up 6 feet away. But after Creamer barely missed on the low side, Recari missed a chance to stretch the lead to two shots when she pushed her birdie try.
“In all that golf out there, it’s kind of funny how it all comes down to the wire,” Creamer said.
At the par-5 closing hole, Creamer found trouble in the trees to the left off the tee, but recovered to hit her second into light rough on the right side. Both then misfired on their approach shots, Creamer’s running through the green to the first cut and Recari flying the green to light rough.
Recari chipped to 5 feet past the hole before Creamer missed her 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe.
With the tournament on the line, Recari then stroked in her par putt for her second victory of the season. In March, she won the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, Calif., beating I.K. Kim with a birdie on the second hole of a playoff.
“I was definitely shaky on the last putt,” she said. “I knew I had to make it to win and avoid a playoff. A playoff is always nerve-racking.”
When the Marathon Classic trophy didn’t show up immediately after the awards ceremony, Recari joked she had hidden it.
“I kept it!” she said, laughing.
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