Gustafson collapses, Lee charges to win Ginn in playoff
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. -- Seon Hwa Lee didn't expect she'd be accepting the Ginn Tribute trophy from tournament host Annika Sorenstam on Sunday.
Few others did, either.
Lee, though, took advantage of a stunning collapse from Sophie Gustafson, and watched Hall of Famer Karrie Webb miss a short par putt in the playoff. The result was Lee's third LPGA Tour title and one of the richest paydays, $390,000, in women's golf.
1. Lee (-14)*
2. Webb (-14)
3. Kim (-13)
T-4. Park (-11)
T-4. Gustafson (-11)
"There's lots of luck," said Lee, nine strokes behind when her round began.
The comeback was the second-largest in LPGA Tour history, surpassed only by 10-stroke rallies from all-time greats Mickey Wright in 1964 and Sorenstam in 2001.
Lee shot a 67 to finish at 14-under 274. In the playoff at No. 18, Lee two-putted for par from about 45 feet before Webb's crucial error.
The 22-year-old South Korean was in the next-to-last group, but had no plans at a dramatic charge. She figured a solid performance would move her up the leaderboard a few notches, and she'd gain confidence for next week's major, the LPGA Championship.
Instead, Gustafson's fall and Webb's slip allowed Lee the chance at victory.
Lee chipped in for birdie from about 40 yards on the 13th to move within a stroke of the lead, still held by Gustafson.
That's when she began thinking maybe she had a chance. Turns out, she did.
The chip in "was really, really big for me," Lee said.
A bogey on the 16th hole dropped Lee into a three-way tie for first. She took the lead when she sank a curling, 20-footer for birdie on the 72nd hole.
Moments later, Webb matched Lee, rolling in a 12-foot birdie to set up a playoff for the second straight year at RiverTowne Country Club.
Lee looked stunned when Webb's short putt stayed left of the cup.
"She has a lot of experience and she is a Hall of Famer," Lee said. "So I didn't expect she was going to miss it."
Neither did Webb, attempting to win her 36th LPGA Tour event.
"There is no excuse for missing that putt," she said.
Song-Hee Kim (69) was third at 13-under, followed by Gustafson and Jane Park (72) another two shots behind.
Gustafson had few explanations for what went wrong.
"I just wanted to do what I had the last three days," said Gustafson, who shot 66, 65, 67 her first three rounds. "But then obviously that didn't work."
Webb was much more sympathetic about Gustafson's struggles.
Holding a six-shot lead when the day began, Gustafson had five bogeys and two double bogeys in her last 15 holes for a 7-over 79.
"Definitely I feel bad for her," said Webb, who played with Gustafson the past two rounds. "You could probably tee it up nine times out of 10 with a six-shot lead and win.
"I'm sure she's very disappointed."
Shellshocked may be a better description.
Gustafson was trying for her first LPGA Tour win since 2003 and raced to the top the first three rounds with long, accurate drives and dead-on putting. She opened Sunday rock solid as ever with a first-hole birdie.
Gustafson made birdie on the third hole to reach 20-under, and was still ahead by five when her troubles began.
She hit her tee shot on the par-3 eighth into a bunker behind the green for a bogey, then three-putted the next green to drop another shot.
Gustafson followed on the 10th with a double bogey, her lead shrinking to one stroke over Na-Yeon Choi.
Gustafson gave up the lead on the par-3 14th, her tee shot going dead left into a greenside lake. She walked back behind her bag with little emotion, staring straight ahead.
When she tapped in for another double bogey a short time later, Gustafson had given up the lead she'd held or shared since Friday.
And the problems didn't stop. Gustafson drove into thick rough for a bogey on the 15th. She put her tee shot into the marsh on the final hole for her last bogey.
It was the second recent disappointment for Gustafson. Two weeks ago, she missed a 12-foot putt on the final hole of the Sybase Classic that would've tied world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa.
Ochoa withdrew from the Ginn Tribute earlier this week because of the death of her uncle.
With the threat of severe weather, organizers moved up tee times and started players off both nines to squeeze in the round before storms arrived. Sorenstam was among those starting off the back nine.
She finished tied for 32nd after a final-round 71 left her at 4-under.
After posting three wins this season, the Swedish star had hoped for a better showing in what was likely the last time she'll play in her tournament given the announcement last month that she is retiring after this season.
"I'm very disappointed about that," she said. "I think everything else has been great this week. The host just doesn't perform."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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