Two bogeys spark Sorenstam to birdie final five

Updated: May 31, 2003, 10:02 PM ET
Associated Press

AURORA, Ill. -- As her short par putt slipped by the edge of the cup, Annika Sorenstam looked up in disgust.

A three-putt bogey.

Even worse, her second three-putt bogey in a row.

Her putting cost her a chance to extend her historic stay at the Colonial last weekend. She wasn't about to let it cost her the lead on the LPGA Tour.

"I told my caddie, 'I've had enough. I'm playing great, I'm hitting good shots. Let's get this turned around. There's five more holes, let's just go get five birdies,''' Sorenstam said. "And that's what happened.''

Sorenstam closed with birdies on the last five holes Saturday to take a two-stroke lead into the final round of the Kellogg-Keebler Classic. Her 6-under 66, the second-best round of the day, gives her a two-day score of 16-under 128.

Mhairi McKay had nine birdies on her way to a 64 and is at 130. Rosie Jones, who began the day tied with Sorenstam, shot a 71 and is five strokes off the lead.

Conditions at Stonebridge Country Club were better suited for football than golf. Temperatures were in the low 50s, with wind gusting up to 30 mph at times.

And the leaders didn't even have it as bad as the early groups. Sorenstam, Jones and McKay were in the last two groups, and the rain had stopped by the time they went off. The wind died down during their rounds, and the sun actually came out by the end of the day.

"I grew up in these type of conditions,'' said Sorenstam, who grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. "It's kind of nice with a little wind, I think. You've really got to hit the ball well.''

But hitting the ball wasn't her problem. Sorenstam hit 13-of-14 fairways and 16-of-18 greens for a second straight day. But her putts jumped from 25 to 29 on Saturday.

She missed four birdie chances on the front nine when the ball scooted past or stopped short of the hole, including twice when it stopped within 6 inches of the hole.

And it got really ugly on the back nine. On the par-3 12th, Sorenstam's birdie putt slid by the hole and ran about 3 feet back. She just missed the par putt, settling for a bogey.

On the par-4 13th, Sorenstam left a long birdie putt far short and then missed a 4-footer for par.

"I was extremely mad,'' she said, smiling. "That happens. It's golf. It got me fired up. Sometimes you've got to turn it around, get mad at yourself and turn it into a positive.''

That she did. She rolled a 35-footer within inches of the cup and then tapped in for a birdie on the par-5 14th. She made 7-foot putts on the next two holes, and a 6-footer on the par-3 17th.

With the crowd already murmuring about her score as she came up the 18th fairway, she closed with a spectacular finish. From 89 yards out, she hit a sand wedge that thudded onto the green and stuck, 5 feet from the pin.

The crowd hooted and hollered, applauding her again as she came up to the green. When someone in the stands yelled, "Nice shot!'' Sorenstam looked up and said, "Thank you.''

"I'm very pleased with the way I played today,'' she said. "Tomorrow I've just got to play solid golf. I'm going to continue to shoot in the 60s and see how low we can go.''

Even lower than last year? Sorenstam won last year's inaugural tournament at Stonebridge, matching the tour record for relation to par in a 54-hole event with a 21-under 195. She won by 11 strokes.

"I normally don't pick a score for the day or the tournament,'' she said. "This is a course you can go low, so I'm going to go out and play the best I can.

"It's a matter of how many birdies I can make tomorrow. I know everybody's right there, and they're going to do the same thing. So it's going to be low.''

McKay has never won an LPGA Tour event, but she's got a special feeling for this course. Not only did she finish tied for second here last year, but she brings her own personal cheering section.

Her caddie, Jeff King, is from Indiana. So all of his friends and family come out to cheer McKay on -- and they're not exactly a quiet bunch.

"They're kind of rowdy and lots of fun. So that kind of raises your spirits,'' McKay said. "I think I had an extra club in the bag with that support.''

Either that or a magic putter. She made three straight birdies on the front nine to move into contention, and had six through the first 11 holes.

Though her eagle putt skipped over the hole on the 14th, she made the easy comeback for birdie. That also gave her a share of the lead with Jones at 12 under.

She drained a 15-footer on the 15th to move to 13 under and take sole possession of the lead. But she didn't make another birdie until the 18th, and that wasn't good enough to hold off a fired-up Sorenstam.

"I kind of had a number in my head. I just kept focusing on that,'' McKay said. "It was actually one less, but I'm happy with 64.''

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press