HAVRE DE GRACE, Md.Â· Pat Hurst let everyone back into the LPGA Championship with a four-putt double bogey. Michelle Wie might be tied for the lead if not for missing a par putt from 18 inches.
Not even Annika Sorenstam was immune from a crazy, windsept Saturday at Bulle Rock with a two-shot penalty that sent her spiraling down the leaderboard and likely out of contention for a fourth straight title in this major. When the sun finally set on a long day filled with mistakes and blown putts, the LPGA Championship was up for grabs.
Hurst missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole and had to settle for an even-par 72. That left her tied for the lead with Japanese sensation Ai Miyazato, who lost a 54-hole lead a week ago trying to win for the first time on the LPGA Tour, and now gets another chance.
They were at 7-under 209, one shot ahead of a group that includes Wie.
The 16-year-old from Hawaii three-putted for bogey three times, none as shocking as the par-3 17th. Standing over what looked to be a tap-in for par, she caught the left edge of the cup and stood in the fading sunlight with a stunned look on her face. Wie rebounded with a 10-foot birdie on the final hole for a 1-under 71, still believing she can be golf’s youngest major champion.
Sorenstam birdied her first hole and marched confidently down the second fairway, ready to make a charge and silence anyone who has questioned her game over a seven-tournament drought. But she lifted a chunk of sod from a divot hole next to her ball, Karrie Webb had no choice but to call the penalty, and Sorenstam got a two-stroke penalty.
“It was a mistake I made,” Sorenstam said after stumbling to a 75, leaving her six shots behind with 21 players between her and the leaders. “It’s never too late, but things have to change.”
The way this major is shaping up, the leaderboard could change with every shot.
Shi Hyun Ahn and Mi-Hyun Kim, playing alongside Wie, each shot 71 and joined her one shot out of the lead. Mexican star Lorena Ochoa, the hottest player on the LPGA Tour with two victories and five second-place finishes, took a three-putt bogey on the 18th hole for a 71 but was still only two shots behind, along with Jee Young Lee and the resurgent Se Ri Pak.
Webb, the only player with a chance to win the Grand Slam this year, was rattled by having to call the penalty shot on Sorenstam and was sliding out of contention until she rallied to shoot 72, joining the group at 4-under 212.
Twenty players were within five shots of the lead.
Morgan Pressel of Boca Raton, the 18-year-old rookie and runner-up at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open, was two shots off the lead after a birdie on the second hole, but that was as good as it got. Tossing clubs in frustration, she collapsed to a 7-over 79 and finished the third round 10 shots out of the lead.
1- A crowded leaderboard with 13 golfers separated by 3 shots. The golf course is playing very difficult I consider 3 shots optimum range for making a comeback under these conditions.
It could be a dramatic final round. Some of the reasons for it I’ll state below. It could be anti-climatic as well. The 1995 Masters and 1986 Men’s US Open saw much more clogged up leaderboards. The later with a 9 way tie for the lead with 10 holes to go! Back nines on Major Championship Sundays have a way of sorting the contenders and pretenders out.
2- Michelle Wie is only one shot out of the lead. A win would be the biggest headline possible for this tournament. I watched yesterday’s play and Michelle was driving it very poorly. She can’t continue to do this and win.
3- The one I may be pulling for more than any is Se Ri Pak. Se Ri hasn’t won in 2 years and saw a dramatic drop off in her play since qualifying for the Hall of Fame in 2004. She sounded and looked confident in a TV interview yesterday. Much like the Se Ri of the past. A win here would be a big comeback and similiar to Karrie Webb’s triumph in 2006′s first major the Nabisco.
4- Talking about Karrie she’s three out going into today. She could win the first two legs of the grand slam.
5- What the @#%^! was Annika thinking yesterday? This article explains what went on better than AP did. She should have known the rules.
Some may note Annika got in a rules dispute with Paula Creamer at last year’s ADT. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. There is a well known cheat on the PGA tour. He is a former major championship winner even. I’ll just say NO ONE is above suspicion.
Why did calling a penalty on Annika rattle Karrie? She was doing what was right. More flakey AP reporting by Doug Ferguson. I’ve questioned some of his writing at my main blog.
6- Morgan Pressel needs to keep her emotions under control better. She is known for displaying them. Bad rounds happen. Time to move on.
7- Meena Lee who is 3 back needs a win to qualify for the US Open. Despite 2 wins since last July, Meena failed to file an entry for this year’s Open.
8- South Koreans could get register 7th tour win of the year so far. Besides Pak and Meena, Mi Hyun ‘Peanut’ Kim, Shi Hyun ‘Cinderella’ Ahn and Jee Young ‘Cinderella II’ Lee are in the top 13 players on the leaderboard. Michelle Wie is Korean-American, I’m not counting her.
A nation of 40 million people without a organized youth or college golf programs keeps rolling out LPGA winners.
9- Out of the leaders only Webb, Pak and Hurst(1998 Nabisco Champ) are former major champs. Other than Juli Inkster, Pat may be the best playing Mother on tour. She has two young children. Only about 30-40 LPGA players are Moms also.
10- Lorena Ochoa currently this year’s leading money winner is in good shape to make a run for her first major victory. She lost in a playoff to Webb earlier this year.
11- Ai Miyazato is playing in the last group for the 3rd time this year. Her two previous experiences were not good ones. She has a big following in Japan, over 100 journalists have come to cover her play in the US. The pressure on Ai this year must be immense. A win would certainly relieve it some.
12- I’ll say something nice about The Golf Channel. With a Nationwide event rained out, the channel will extend their coverage today. Coming on the air at 2:30 p.m. Guess what I’ll be watching today?
Update- With 10 holes to play Webb and Peanut are tied for the lead. Eight golfers are one back including Annika and Se Ri. This could be one incredible finish.
2nd Update- It’s a playoff. Webb vs Pak. The comeback gals.
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