The LPGA is on hiatus till late March but that doesn’t mean Women’s golf is taking a break. From AP-
Karrie Webb won her seventh Australian Ladies Masters title Sunday, closing with a course-record 11-under 61 for a six-stroke victory.
Webb, a stroke ahead of defending champion Katherine Hull and South Korea’s Lee Bo-mee entering the final round, finished at 26-under 262 on the Royal Pines course to match the tournament record she set in 1999.
Webb holed a 9-iron approach from about 125 yards for eagle on the par-4 seventh and made a 30-foot putt on No. 18 for her ninth birdie of the round. She broke the course record of 62 set last year by Kristie Smith.
Hull and Lee, bogey-free in four rounds, shot 66s to tie for second in the event sanctioned by Australian Ladies Professional Golf and the Ladies European Tour.
The LPGA should seriously consider making this a sanctioned event also. It would be a bridge from the tour’s Winter Asia swing back to the United States.
Webb also won the ANZ from 1998-2001, 2005, and 2007. Her victories in this tournament haven’t necessarily been a prelude to a big LPGA Tour season for the Aussie golfer. She did not win on the LPGA in either 2005 or 2007 but had a fantastic 2006 campaign sandwiched between those years.
In Japan, Sun Ju Ahn won the Daikin Orchid Ladies. Ahn stopped Ai Miyazato’s winning streak. Visit The Constructivist for more details. TC also blogged on Webb’s ANZ win.
Since she is Australian in addition to being the tournament’s defending champ this shouldn’t really be news but it is. From the Herald-Sun-
THE tournament still has no sponsor, but the Australian Open can count on a commitment from Karrie Webb and the country’s best female golfers.
Webb has chosen country over cash, confirming she will bypass the opening event of next year’s US LPGA Tour to defend her Australian Open crown in February.
The Open, from February 12-15, will clash with the SBS Open at Turtle Bay Resport, a Hawaiian event offering more than three times the $500,000 prize pool at Melbourne’s Metropolitan course.
But Webb, who produced an incredible comeback to beat world No.6 Ji-Yai Shin in the Australian Open this year, will front up in Melbourne again with Australia’s leading females Katherine Hull and Lindsey Wright.
“I thoroughly enjoy playing in the ANZ Ladies Masters at Royal Pines every year and I’m thrilled to be going back to the Open as defending champ after winning in a play-off earlier this year.
“It’s great to have the opportunity to play in front of family and friends.”
Webb will also be aiming to win her seventh ANZ Masters title on the Gold Coast in February.
But she will have tough opposition, including Shin and world No.2 Yani Tseng.
An unnecessary scheduling conflict between the Australian and LPGA tournaments. With all those open weeks early on in the LPGA schedule, couldn’t the SBS been played another time?
Maybe not, the golf course may not have been available or the deal between the tournament and the LPGA not subject to change. Besides Webb and other Australian based LPGA pros, I think most LPGA players will pick SBS over the Australian Open.
In West Palm Beach Florida. The 32 player field will start competing at Trump International when Ji-Yai Shin and Shanshan Feng go off the tee at 9:30.
That’s a interesting first pairing for a tournament, even for a limited field event. Shin is the defending British Open champion, ranked #6 in the world, and just 11 days off winning the LPGA Tour stop in Japan. Shin has to be considered one of the favorites this week. The probable reason for this early pairing is Shin not being a LPGA Tour member yet.
The ADT has a interesting playoff format. 32 players begin the tournament, but 16 are eliminated after Friday’s play ends. If there are any ties, a playoff takes place to eliminate any excess players. Then scores reset for Saturday play. At the end of Saturday, the top 8 only qualify for Sunday’s final round where the winner takes home a million dollar check. Julieta Granada won the ADT in 2006 and Lorena Ochoa won in 2007. Their
good luck charm final round playing partner, Natalie Gulbis, is not in this year’s field.
How do I handicap the field. First I’ll give the Palm Beach Post’s picks for the final 8. As you can imagine, I got a bone to pick with the newspaper.
The Post in order of finish- Ochoa, Yani Tseng, Christina Kim, Paula Creamer, Inbee Park, Cristie Kerr, Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb
My picks- Shin, Ochoa, Kerr, Feng, Helen Alfredsson, Sun Young Yoo, Katherine Hull, Creamer
Post picks to make it 54 holes- Jeong Jang, In Kyung Kim, Candie Kung, Song-Hee Kim, Angela Park, Suzann Pettersen, Morgan Pressel, Yoo
My picks- Pressel, IK Kim, Kung, Webb, Pettersen, Tseng, C Kim, Ji Young Oh
My main gripes with the Post selections
1- Only South Korean player chosen.(Christina Kim) Two made it in 2006, two made it in 2007. The player who made it both years, Mi Hyun Kim, is not in this year’s field.
Inbee Park has played terrible since winning the US Open. Out of the 13 South Koreans in the field, she may well be my last choice this week. One surprise Korean player has made the final round both previous year. Last year it was Sarah Lee. I think we’ll have one this weekend too. Sun Young Yoo has been quietly been playing excellent golf for about two months.
Angela Park also was selected to make play on Saturday and she has been playing almost as poorly as In bee. The Post picked the wrong Korean major champion to be around Sunday, I’d bet Greg Stoda ten dollars its Shin over Inbee.
2- The selection of Karrie Webb. Webb made the final 8 both times, but she has been erratic at best in 2008 and isn’t playing the best golf of any Australian right now. That designation goes to Katherine Hull, who I picked to make the final 8.
We’ll have to wait till Sunday to see who is right.
Some other notes
*- Much has been made about Annika Sorenstam’s ‘retirement‘. While Annika won’t play the tour in 2009, I bet she comes back to compete 10-15 times in a year before 2013 comes and this won’t be her last ever Tour Championship. We’ll see who is right in 5 years.
*- Randall Mell of the Sun-Sentinel writes that ADT company didn’t want to end its sponsorship but the renewal price the LPGA was asking for was too high.
Also up with previews of the ADT Championship- Hound Dog and The Constructivist
She defeated Ji-Yai Shin on the second hole of a sudden death playoff.
MELBOURNE, Australia – Karrie Webb won her fourth Women’s Australian Open title with a 3-meter (10-foot) birdie putt Sunday on the second hole of a playoff against South Korea’s Shin Ji-yai.
Webb, who won last year’s title at Royal Sydney, and Shin finished with closing 67s at Kingston Heath and 8-under totals of 284.
Both players had parred the 18th on the first hole of the playoff before Webb’s winning putt on the same hole 15 minutes later in the joint Australian-European tour event.
Webb birdied the 16th and 17th holes of her final round to force the playoff. Shin had birdied four of six holes on the back nine and was in the clubhouse with a two-stroke lead when Webb rallied with her late birdies.
Webb won one of the Australian pre-LPGA events in 2007, causing me to speculate she would have a bigger season than in 06. Was I ever off the mark, Karrie didn’t win an LPGA event in 2007. Karrie’s best days on the LPGA are likely behind her, but I wouldn’t bet against her winning in 2008.
Shin is emerging as one of the top players in the world. Dominating the KLPGA for the last two years in a row, plus contending at last year’s US Women’s Open. Ji Yai isn’t due to attempt qualifying for the LPGA till the fall of 2008. You can already mark her down as the heavy favorite for 2009 Rookie of the Year.
Talking about the LPGA, there is less than two weeks till the first event of 2008. Three months without the women’s tour, boy am I suffering withdrawal. LOL.
The ADT tees it up this morning. Here is how I break down the 32 player field.
Top tier favorites- Suzann Pettersen, Lorena Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam, Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb
On past performance here and who is playing well this year, these are the five most likely
The Koreans or why they just don’t seem to play well at Trump International- Over the last five ADTs, Soo Yun Kang came the closest to winning the event in 2005 finishing second. Il Mi Chung did have a piece of the lead on the back nine last year but wilted.
There are 8 South Koreans in the field, plus two other players of Korean heritage(Angela Park and Christina Kim). I have a hard time seeing one of them winning, though based on their records this year, I can’t avoid making some of them second tier choices.
Second tier favorites- Se Ri Pak, Paula Creamer, Jeong Jang, Morgan Pressel, Laura Davies
Dark horses- These are the people I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they won Sunday even though they’ll hardly get a mention from others
Seon Hwa Lee
Jee Young Lee
Angela since the Jamie Farr has had only two non top 15 finishes. A missed cut and a T39th.
Jee Young is coming off a T6, T18 and a T9 in her last three outings. She has played well all year.
The in betweeners- Catorina Matthew, Natalie Gulbis, Mi Hyun Kim, Juli Inkster, Angela Stanford, Jee Young Lee, Stacy Prammanasudh, Angela Park, Maria Hjorth, Seon Hwa Lee
The Julieta Granada pick for 2007- Inbee Park. A rookie who didn’t win Rookie of Year, or win a tournament before the ADT. The only 2007 ADT entrant fitting Granada’s description before last year’s tournament is Inbee.
Then the rest- Reilley Rankin, Meaghan Francella, Sophie Gustafson, Shi Hyun Ahn, Laura Diaz, Sarah Lee, Nicole Castrale, Sherri Steinhauer,
People I’d be most surprised if they won this week- Christina Kim and Ai Miyazato. I like both these players but right now they don’t look to be on form.
My picks for the final eight- Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Jee Young Lee, Seon Hwa Lee, Angela Stanford, Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome, and Christie Kerr.
The Ladies Professional Golf year is almost over. We’ll celebrate the best, oddest, or just plain out of nowhere things that happened in 2007.
Player of the Year- Lorena Ochoa. Seven wins and a British Open title make her the hands down selection.
Rookie of the Year- Angela Park. At the Fields Open in February, Angela finished third and never let up the rest of the year. A tie for second and two more third place finishes left Angela with almost double the points of her next closest pursuer for Rookie of the Year.
Shot of the Year- Momoko Ueda’s final round double eagle at the Mizuno Classic. It propelled Momoko to a two-shot triumph.
Comeback of the Year- This is one of the toughest choices I have when it comes to 2007 awards. The four top candidates as I see it are Suzann Pettersen, Maria Hjorth, Birdie Kim, and Beth Bader.
Suzann’s and Maria’s stake to Comeback player of the year too closely resembles Karrie Webb in 2006, and I didn’t think Karrie was right choice last year either. Going from 46th on the money list to 2nd isn’t a comeback to me.
Birdie, the surprise 2005 US Open Champ, has had a much better year than her dismal 2006. Still she misses lots of cuts and her strokes per round average(73.40 to 73.86) is barely different than last year.
Beth Bader went from 83rd to 46th on the money list. Easily Beth’s best year.
Based on her poor 2005, I’ll give comeback player of the year to Suzann Pettersen.
‘Where did they come from?’ Award- Meaghan Francella. Honorable mention to Na On Min.
Best finish of the year- We have a tie. Between The Sherri Steinhauer/Christina Kim State Farm Classic final round battle and the Laura Davies and Suzann Pettersen duel at the Honda LPGA Thailand.
Collapse of the year- Another tie. Suzann Pettersen and Se Ri Pak. Both looked to have the Kraft Nabisco in the bag on Sunday, but failed to close.
2007 Mom of the Year- Juli Inkster edges Catorina Matthew.
‘The Tiger Woods had it easy’ award- To the new LPGA Moms of 2007, Hee Won Han, Karen Stupples, Hillary Lunke and Jackie Gallagher-Smith. Also Catorina Matthew who had her daughter in 2006, but returned to play in 2007. As a father, I know mothers have the hardest job around. That these women can combine motherhood and professional golf, should get a big round of applause. That goes for all 29 LPGA Moms.
The ‘What me worry?’ award- Se Ri Pak for her final round birdie of the sixth hole at the Jamie Farr after Morgan Pressel made a hole in one on the same hole. Se Ri went on to win her fifth Farr Classic.
The ‘I survived’ award- Brittany Lincicome for her win at the Ginn Open. Morgan Pressel gets honorable mention.
‘The Raindrops keep falling on my head’ award- To Mother nature for washing out the NW Arkansas Championship Presented by John Q Hammons. Only 18 holes were played. And I thought the south was suffering from a drought this year.
The ‘Pick who doesn’t belong’ award- Maria Hjorth. She was the only non-Asian among the four semifinalists at the HSBC World Match Play Championship.
The ‘Scotty and the search party’ award Part I- Michelle Wie. Can someone please locate her golf game?
The ‘Scotty and the search party’ award Part II- Morgan Pressel’s golf clubs. They were stolen the day after she won the Kraft Nabisco.
The ‘Thank God for electronic scoreboards’ award- Stacy Prammanasudh and Virada Nirapathpongporn for their duel in the early rounds of the Navistar. Imagine if Vicki Goetze-Ackerman and Jackie Gallagher-Smith had been in contention…….
The ‘Go away little monkey award’- Lorena Ochoa, Christie Kerr, and Natalie Gulbis. Lorena and Christie for winning their first major, Gulbis for winning.
The ‘Big hand for a little lady’ award- Mi Hyun ‘Peanut’ Kim for her donation to Kansas tornado victims
The ‘biggest splash’ award- Morgan Pressel at the Nabisco
The ‘thanks but no thanks’ award- Annika Sorenstam for turning down a last minute invite to the Samsung.
The ‘What the heck’? award- St Andrews 17th Road Hole plays as a par five for the British Open.
The ‘Sizzler’ award- In-Kyung Kim for shooting an LPGA record 27 for 9 holes.
The ‘Pitchforks and torches’ award- To the Korean golf fans who got upset when the Hana Bank-KOLON final round was canceled. Who says LPGA fans aren’t enthusiastic?
‘The Never forget but keep on living’ award- Durmaed Futures player Jenny Hansen whose husband Jeff was killed while serving in Iraq in 2006. Ji Yai Shin gets honorable mention.
The ‘Chokin Freakin Dogs’ award- To….cough…cough…Dottie Pepper. Dottie may well have destroyed any chance she had of being a Solheim Cup Captain in the future.
‘We need an optometrist STAT’ award- To the ESPN announcer who mixed up Laura Davies and Laura Diaz at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.
Biggest letdowns of 2007- Karrie Webb, Meena Lee, Pat Hurst, only 4 Korean winners this year
Million Dollar winner award- You’ll have to check back in on Sunday to see who wins that one.
The LPGA golf season begins Thursday at the SBS Open, but Australian Karrie Webb has already won two tournaments. From AP-
GOLD COAST, Australia – After two days of nearly flawless golf, Karrie Webb stumbled late but held on Sunday to win her sixth ANZ Australian Ladies Masters.
She had a comfortable four-stroke lead through much of the back nine at Royal Pines before bogeying the 17th and 18th holes for a 4-under 68 and a two-stroke victory over Shin Ji-yai of
Webb, who came from seven strokes behind Saturday with a course-record, 10-under 62 to share the third-round lead with fellow Australian Michelle Ellis, again made clutch putts to follow up last week’s six-stroke
Australian Open win.
With two victories in two starts in Australia, Webb begins play on the LPGA Tour in the SBS Open at Turtle Bay, Hawaii beginning Thursday.
Karrie was playing at home in both these wins but they are still impressive because of the fields. She won four times last year and finished 2nd on the money list. With this start Karrie could be in for an even bigger 2007.
Golf World magazine has come out with their top 25 list.
1- Tiger Woods. No argument there.
2- Phil Mickelson. I’ve always felt GW’s editors have a secret homosexual crush on Phil. No other reason could account for all the covers he gets even when he wasn’t the biggest golf story of the week. Karrie Webb wins a major, Phil is on the cover. Geoff Ogilvy wins the US Open but Phil is again the subject of GW’s cover.
Mickelson is an excellent choice, but I’d rank a few other golf stories ahead of him.
3- The 72nd hole at Winged Foot. No argument.
4- Fedex Cup I’m no fan of this gimmick but yes its newsworthy.
5- LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens
Excellent choice but not necessarily top 5 material. I strongly disagree with GW’s assertion that she performed better as the year progressed. Bivens’ blunders were spread out the length of 2006. This being the most recent example.
6- Euphoric Euros
7- Damned Yanks
The Ryder Cup gets no argument from me other than I would have made it one newsmaker not two.
8- Michelle Wie
The sad derailment and exploitation of this young lady is definitely newsworthy.
9- Underwhelming Teens.
Here’s where GW starts to lose it. The story of the LPGA’s youth movement was one of the most overdone golf stories of the last few years. It was hyped so much that a let down had to be expected.
An instantly iconic photo from 2005 had 5-foot-5 Morgan Pressel alongside Michelle Wie, who towered seven inches above her. Their eyes were locked and their expressions indicated an exchange of chummy text messages was not likely. Pressel, 17 months older than Wie and possessing a 3-and-2 victory over the Hawaiian in the third round of the 2003 U.S. Girlsâ€™ Junior as well as the title from the 2005 U.S. Womenâ€™s Amateur, an event Wie skipped, openly resents that her taller adversary gets more attention. Throw in the stunning rookie year Paula Creamer had in 2005 — two LPGA victories and four total — and the anticipation for the three-teen rivalry made the 2006 season the tourâ€™s most eagerly awaited in recent memory.
Reality, however, never matched the hype. While the talented teens (Creamer turned 20 in August) had what most their age would consider successful seasons, none won or even went head-to-head with a tournament on the line. Throw in Natalie Gulbis, 23, whose winless streak in LPGA events ran to 132 in 2006, and the tour clearly failed to deliver the young American star power needed to capture fans. The reality is that a sensational year by Lorena Ochoa and a stirring comeback season by Karrie Webb could not compensate for the fact the top two rookies on tour were Seon-Hwa Lee and Julieta Granada, 20-year-old international â€¨players who entered the season without the accolades afforded Pressel or Japanese star Ai Miyazato.
1- These same golf writing hacks who hyped Wie, Pressel and Miyazato are still blind to Seon Hwa Lee. Lee didn’t come out of nowhere, she finished first on the the Futures Tour money list in 2005. Its what I call a case of having golf blinders on.
2- Natalie Gulbis is an example of golf writers being driven by their male egos rather than the facts. Ms. Gulbis is a talented golfer, and certainly not the 2000′s version of Jill McGill, but she will never be one of the tour’s top 5 players. Top 10 maybe, but with Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak, Karrie Webb, Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie when she gets her game back together, Christie Kerr to beat, I never see Gulbis as a top 5. That doesn’t even include other South Korean stalwarts like Jeong Jang, Hee Won Han, Mi Hyun Kim and Grace Park if she returns from her back and injury woes. Jang, Han and Grace will always outshine Ms. Gulbis when all of them, Ms. Gulbis included, are playing their best. As for Kim, aka Peanut vs Gulbis, I think her win at the Jamie Farr over Gulbis in a playoff says all that needs being said.
The Golf MSM mistakes physical attractiveness for golfing ability. That’s actually one of the least of its many problems.
c- GW said about Creamer-
“Creamer played solidly, never missing a cut, but may still be adjusting to tour life. She has more than a half dozen endorsement deals — all of which require time commitments — and played three non-LPGA events in Japan, where her Pink Panther persona is enormously popular. Cashing in on her impressive rookie season in 2005 may have created time and travel demands off the course that (coupled with a lingering wrist injury) impacted her performance. The drop-off, however, was not enough to be a concern.”
I think Paula will be better but she needs to take control of her schedule. Travelling halfway around the world to play golf can lead to burnout. Look what happened to Bill Rogers. This isn’t adjusting to tour life as GW says but managing one’s career instead of letting others do it for you.
10- The Bomb n Gouge Squad. Huh? Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes and Camilo Villegas were all golf stories for a week or two each early in the year. Top 25 newsmaker maybe, but certainly not a top 10.
The rest of GW’s top 25 with a little added commentary.
11- Camilo Villegas. See my #10 comments. Why does this player rank two listings?
12- Defense mechanisms- Overrated
13- Lorena Ochoa- She should be in the top 5 newsmakers for 2006.
14- The new TV pact. Good pick.
15- Nick Faldo. I don’t understand this pick either. Faldo’s playing days are over and he only makes the news through his work as a broadcaster.
As for his selection to be Ryder Cup Captain, that doesn’t pass the muster for a top 25 pick.
16- Byron Nelson. His passing away should have ranked much higher.
17- Dearly departed aka the passing away of Heather Clarke, Earl Woods and Norma DiMarco. An iffy choice for the top 25.
18- John Daly. So what? Daly had a horrendous year on tour, so did about 200-300 other professional golfers. Again a very overrated story.
19- Geoff Ogilvy. His win in the US Open should rank higher than this.
Of the rest of GW’s top 25, only #23 Drug testing, #22 Super Seniors, and maybe #25 China’s growing presence, should be listed among golf’s missing newsmakers.
What dope was GW smoking when they missed these stories?
* The return of Karrie Webb, in particular her win at the Kraft Nabisco
* The return of Se Ri Pak from oblivion with her win at the LPGA Championship. Also the back 9 of that tournament on Sunday may have been the most dramatic of any tournament all year. With Pak, Karrie Webb, Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Michelle Wie, Pat Hurst, Mi Hyun Kim, Ai Miyazato and a few others all having legitimate chances to win the event.
* The passing away of LPGA great Patty Berg
* Arnold Palmer retiring from competitive golf.
* The recordbook rounds of Loren Roberts at the Senior Open and Corey Pavin at the US Bank in Milwaukee.
* The off year had by Annika Sorenstam. Plus her trouble with both ignoring and or breaking of LPGA rules a and therules of golf.
* The off year had by Vijay Singh.
Omitting Webb, Pak, Sorenstam and Palmer just shows you how dumb this golf publication is. Then it shouldn’t have surprised me, GW passed up Webb and Pak for the magazine’s cover the week after their victories. Annika missing the cut one week was noteworthy enough to make the magazine’s cover. Enough said, right?
2- The 72nd hole of the US Open
3- Lorena Ochoa
4- Phil Mickelson
5- Carolyn Bivens
6- Fedex Cup
7- Michelle Wie
8- The 2006 Ryder Cup
9- Byron Nelson RIP
10- The return of Karrie Webb
11- Arnold Palmer retires
12- Drug testing
13- The return of Se Ri Pak and the dramatic 2006 LPGA Championship
14- The struggles and rule breaking of Annika Sorenstam
15- Geoff Ogilvy win at the US Open and the the Aussies big year on the PGA Tour
16- The new television deal
17- Patty Berg RIP
18- Record rounds by Corey Pavin and Loren Roberts
19- Where is Vijay?
20- Super Seniors
21- The overrating of youth on the LPGA tour
22- Giving new meaning to the term ‘golf hazard’
23- Dearly departed
24- The growth of golf in China
25- Can anyone in golf do 5th grade math?
MIE, Japan – Karrie Webb ended Annika Sorenstam’s Mizuno Classic winning streak at five Sunday, closing with a 6-under 66 for a four-stroke victory over Kaori Higo in Japan’s lone LPGA Tour event.
Sorenstam shot a 70 to finish five strokes back at 9-under 207 on the Kashikojima Country Club course. The Swedish star also failed in her second attempt in a month to win an LPGA Tour event a record six times.
“I’m feeling a little disappointed about the results, especially today,” Sorenstam said. “I couldn’t get anything going and I needed to do it to have a chance to six-peat. Especially with everyone playing so well, especially Karrie. So, I felt like I needed to do something to get it going, but I tried and that’s all I could do today.”
Sorenstam began the streak in 2001 at Musashigaoka and won four times at Seta. Last year, she became the first LPGA Tour player to win a tournament five straight times and matched the record she shares with Mickey Wright for victories in an event. The 36-year-old Sorenstam also had a chance to win the Samsung Championship for the sixth time last month, but lost a final-round lead to Lorena Ochoa.
“You can’t take anything away from Annika winning five years in a row at one tournament. It’s an unbelievable feat,” Webb said. “The change from Seta to here was different, although she had a good chance to win today.
Webb won for the fifth time this season to match Ochoa for the LPGA Tour lead and push her career total to 35. The resurgent Australian star earned $180,000 to move into second place behind Ochoa on the money list with $2,069,613.
Annika’s incredible streak at the Mizuno had to end eventually. As for Webb and Ochoa for LPGA Player of the year, my vote would go to Karrie. One simple reason- Karrie won a major championship this year(The Kraft Nabisco) while Lorena didn’t
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PoliBlog’s Deportes: A PoliBlog Sideblog linked with Annika Sorenstam turns down Samsung World Championship Invitation
The race to qualify for the ADT Championship linked with OTB Sports
PoliBlog’s Deportes: A PoliBlog Sideblog linked with The race to qualify for the ADT Championship
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.