Sports Outside the Beltway

Pak is Back

From CBS Sportsline-

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. — Burned out, injured and all but forgotten for two years, Se Ri Pak returned to the spotlight in stunning fashion Sunday when her utility club from 201 yards stopped 3 inches from the hole for a sudden-death playoff victory over Karrie Webb in the LPGA Championship.


Pak atoned for a three-putt bogey on the 18th hole in regulation that kept her from winning, delivering a spectacular finish to a tournament that was up for grabs over the final two hours at Bulle Rock.

“I’m very happy to be back again,” Pak said. “I’m a very lucky person. I’m as happy a person has ever been.”

It all must have looked familiar to Webb, who was trying to capture the second leg of the Grand Slam.

Just two months ago, Webb holed a pitching wedge from 116 yards on the 18th hole at the Kraft Nabisco Championship for an eagle that placed her in a playoff, and her victory was a sign that the Hall of Famer’s game had returned.

“I thought I was getting my own medicine,” Webb said after watching Pak’s remarkable shot from about 200 yards.

Se Ri Pak wins her third LPGA Championship and fifth major. (AP)
Webb also had gone through some struggles while retooling her swing, and after winning the Kraft Nabisco, Pak saw her a few weeks later and gave her a big hug.

“She told me, ‘Now it’s my turn. I’ll win the next one,’” Webb recalled.

Michelle Wie was among six players who had a chance to either win or get into a playoff on the final hole, but the 16-year-old from Hawaii wasted too many chances.

Pak’s last victory was two years ago at the Michelob Ultra Open, which gave her enough points for the World Golf Hall of Fame. Then, the 28-year-old South Korean and her electric smile all but vanished from the LPGA Tour, and she sat out the last three months of the 2005 season to get healthy and get happy.

She acknowledged being burned out, and considered her injury a gift because it forced her to stop playing. She was never more happy on the golf course Sunday, especially after watching her utility club — the equivalent of a 4-iron — headed for the hole.

It looked like it might go in, much like Shaun Micheel’s 7-iron at Oak Hill when he won the 2003 PGA Championship. This one stopped a few turns short, all but clinching victory. Pak raised both arms in victory, then delivered a massive uppercut to signal her return, and jumped into the arms of her caddie.

“First time I jumped on the golf course,” Pak said.

Webb, who missed birdie putts of 4 and 10 feet on the last two holes in regulation, hit her approach in the playoff to about 20 feet, but the putt to force another hole veered well to the left.

Pak won her fifth major, and joined Mickey Wright, Kathy Whitworth, Patty Sheehan and Annika Sorenstam as the only three-time winners of the LPGA Championship.

Wie’s third birdie in a five-hole stretch brought her within one of the lead, but she missed the 16th green with a wedge and watched her 4-foot par putt spin 270 degrees out of the cup. She narrowly missed an 8-foot birdie on the 171-yard 17th, then had to make a 50-foot birdie on the 18th to join the playoff. It looked good until the final few feet, then ran 8 feet by and she wound up three-putting for bogey and a 72 to tie for fifth.

“I feel like I’m getting closer and closer,” she said. “It shows a lot that I played my ‘B’ game and I’m still in the top five.”

Pak became the seventh South Korean in 14 events to win on the LPGA Tour, and it was fitting that hers came in a major. Pak was responsible for so many joining her in the United States, with 32 players from South Korea now on the LPGA Tour.

And she needed a few breaks.

She holed a 50-foot birdie putt on the par-3 12th hole to stay in the game, and she surged into the lead with a chip-and-putt birdie on the par-5 15th and a wedge from the rough to within 4 feet for birdie on the 16th.

Better yet, she put the three-putt bogey on the 18th hole in regulation out of her mind.

Pak laid back off the tee on the 385-yard closing hole in the playoff, leaving her a long shot with her utility club. But it never left its line, and all Webb could do was smile.

Se Ri’s victory today had to make golf fans smile and her many fans cry. She was as low as can be at this tournament one year ago. Golf was no longer any fun for her Se Ri admitted to the press.

To win the LPGA one year later. See Se Ri smile back and that jump she made at 18. It was a fantastic finish to a tournament that was a great battle all day Sunday.

I think its safe to say we’ve seen the return of Se Ri Pak.

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