GLADSTONE — Jodi Ewart came to the first round of the Sybase LPGA Match Play Championship with realistic expectations Thursday.
All she ended up doing was pulling the day's biggest upset.
That was saying something, considering some of the LPGA's best-known players lost on day one of the tournament.
Ewart, the No. 62 seed, beat third-seeded and defending champion Suzann Pettersen 3 and 1 at Hamilton Farms Golf Club in Somerset County.
"On paper, I'm not supposed to win at all," Ewart said. "I just went out there and played really fearless golf because I was attacking pins."
In addition to Pettersen, Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie, 2011 ShopRite champion Brittany Lincicome and 2010 ShopRite winner Ai Miyazato also lost.
Sybase, which features 64 players in match play format, is the first of two LPGA stops in New Jersey this spring.
The $1.5 million ShopRite LPGA Classic will be held on the Bay Course at Seaview Resort in Galloway Township on June 1-3. Nearly all of the golfers who play Sybase will also tee it up at the ShopRite Classic.
Ewart, 24, is in her rookie season. The England native earned a spot at Sybase with her solid play early in the year. She's made the cut in four of six events and finished tied for seventh at the Kia Classic in California in March.
But Ewart still figured to be little trouble for Pettersen, who has won eight LPGA events. Ewart wanted to get off to a good start.
That didn't happen.
She dropped the first two holes to the defending champion.
"I was like, 'I'm going to get absolutely thrashed,' " Ewart said.
After both players shot par on the third hole, Ewart won holes four and five to draw even.
"On No. 4, I holed a really good birdie putt," Ewart said, "and after that I was just really steady, and I managed to focus on myself."
Ewart won holes No. 11 to 13 to build a two-hole lead. She couldn't help at that point but think of the possible upset.
"I did start getting a little bit ahead of myself," she said.
Ewart lost the 14th hole when she three-putted.
But she all but clinched the match when she hit an 8-iron to within three feet of the pin on the 145-yard, par-3 16th. Ewart made the putt to go back up by two holes.
"This is probably the biggest match play match I've ever won," she said. "It was probably the most mentally draining match that I've ever won. Even when you're walking down the fairway, you have to be really focused."
The match ended after Pettersen missed a long birdie putt and conceeded the 17th hole.
"I just played awful from the fairway to the green," Pettersen said later. "I missed more greens today than I have all year."
"I was a little bit shocked," Ewart said of her reaction when Pettersen conceded. "I was like 'Oh, I can stop thinking now.' I just felt like I was really happy."
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Creamer, Wie and Lincicome began their firs- round matches within 15 minutes of each other.
They were also eliminated with minutes of each other.
Creamer fell first.
Jennifer Johnson, the No. 57 seed, beat eighth-seeded Creamer 2 and 1.
Wie lost next. Mina Harigae, the No. 45 seed, defeated the 20th-seeded Wie 3 and 2.
Finally, 56th-seeded Ryan O'Toole beat ninth-seeded Lincicome 2 and 1.
Creamer, Wie and Lincicome have combined to win 16 events. O'Toole, Johnson and Harigae have yet to win.
Creamer, Wie and Lincicome are three of the tour's best-known American golfers.
The only positive for U.S. golf is that the players who beat them are also Americans.
For Johnson, it was her first match play event as professional. The 20-year-old is in her second year on tour.
"Even though it was match play and you have an opponent, I still tried to play the golf course and not think about (Creamer)," she said. "Match play makes it even more of a mind game. You just have to be more mentally tough and try to play your own game as much as possible."
Some of the favorites did survive the first round. Top-seeded Yani Tseng, No. 6 seed Stacy Lewis and fifth-seeded and 2004 ShopRite winner Cristie Kerr all advanced.
Angela Stanford, the 2003 Classic champion, and well-known Americans Natalie Gulbis and Morgan Pressel each won first-round matches.
Tseng said upsets are to be expected in match play where she said no shot can be taken for granted. She's just glad she wasn't a victim.
"Tomorrow," Tseng said, "will be a different day."
Not for Thursday's upset victims it won't.
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