Pak wins title with Sunday 64; Sorenstam falls to third

Updated: March 24, 2003, 12:15 AM ET
Associated Press

PHOENIX -- Annika Sorenstam was plodding along, trying to concentrate on her own game. That might be a good strategy to use against the men at the Colonial, but it didn't work Sunday against Se Ri Pak.

Se Ri Pak
Se Ri Pak was all business Sunday, making two early eagles en route to a final-round 64.

Sorenstam blew a two-shot lead with some indifferent play, and Pak caught her with a pair of eagles on the front nine on her way to a 64 and the championship of the Safeway Ping tournament.

In the end, Sorenstam wasn't even a factor, finishing in a three-way tie for third, four strokes back after shooting a 71.

''I think I played well. It was one of those days I just had a lot of lip-outs,'' Sorenstam said. ''That's golf. If you play golf long enough you know these things happen.''

Pak shot 30 on the front side to take the lead, then held off Grace Park with a scrambling par after hitting it in the water on the 17th hole. She finished with a flourish, hitting her second shot to tap-in range on the final hole for birdie.

Sorenstam, meanwhile, struggled with her wedges and putter all day and was never in contention on the back nine. After three days of making birdies, she made 17 pars and only one birdie long after it didn't matter.

''I was playing my own game, one shot at a time,'' Sorenstam said. ''I feel good. Nineteen under, I'll take that any time.''

Pak, who had five wins last year to Sorenstam's 11, won the first head-to-head showdown between the LPGA tour's two top players by being aggressive from the first tee on.

She birdied the first two holes, hit a shot 230 yards to within 2 feet for eagle on the fourth and made another eagle on the par-5 eighth.

''It gave me a little more confidence,'' Pak said. ''At least I know I can go out there and play.''

On a course where birdies came in bunches, though, it took a scrambling par on the 17th hole for Pak to win.

Pak was leading by a shot when she hit her tee shot into the water. She hit an 8-iron about 40 feet and then calmly sunk the long putt.

''It made my day,'' she said. ''That was my best putt of the week.''

Park actually had an outside chance to tie if she could sink her second shot on the par-4 18th hole and she nearly did, with the ball checking up just 3 feet beneath the hole. She shot a final-round 65.

''It looked really good in the air,'' Park said. ''I was hoping it would go in.''

Pak, who had four straight rounds in the 60s, served notice to Sorenstam that she faces an imposing task in trying to win 11 times again this year. Four of Pak's wins last year came with Sorenstam in the field.

''I'm really proud of myself,'' said Pak, who finished at 23 under. ''I really wanted to win this tournament.''

Surprisingly, Sorenstam played erratically, plodding along with pars on the same course where she made nine birdies a day before.

The most dominant player in women's golf made only one birdie -- two-putting the par-5 10th hole -- and parred the rest. It was the second straight year she blew a final-round lead at the Moon Valley Country Club, where she lost last year in a playoff to Rachel Teske.

It was Sorenstam's first competitive golf in five months, a time she used to go to cooking school, make plans to play against the men at Colonial and play a practice round with Tiger Woods.

The layoff didn't seem to affect her as she opened with a 67, then improved a shot a day in the second and third rounds.

But in the final round, Sorenstam grew increasingly frustrated as she missed putt after putt in the opening holes. After hitting her drive into a fairway bunker on the eighth hole, she flipped her driver in the air in disgust.

Worse yet, the wedge play that carried Sorenstam to nine birdies the day before deserted her, and she missed the green on both the seventh and eighth holes with a wedge in her hand.

''This week, it was all about getting in the mode,'' said Sorenstam, who was playing her first competitive golf in five months.

Karrie Webb, who was tied with Sorenstam, Pak and Patricia Meunier-Lebouc after three rounds, was never a factor in the final round. She started out three shots back and shot a 2-over 38 on the front, including a bogey on the on the par-5 fourth when she missed the green with a wedge and took three to get down.

Notes
Before she bogeyed the sixth hole Sunday, Se Ri Pak had gone 43 holes without a bogey. ... First prize was $150,000, out of a total purse of $1 million. ... Despite playing in twosomes on a relatively short course with almost no rough, the leaders still took more than four hours to finish. ... Rookie Lorena Ochoa had weekend rounds of 64 and 66 to finish at 17 under.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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