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End of season places up for grabs on LPGA

Laura Diaz is in a position similar to that of a year ago entering the LPGA Tournament of Champions -- except she's seven months pregnant.

Diaz comes into the tournament beginning Thursday at the Crossings Course at No. 37 on the money list. She needs the $138,000 first prize to make the top 30 and qualify for next week's season-ending ADT Tour Championship.

In each of the last two TOCs, players have punched last-minute tickets to the Tour Championship with their earnings here. Diaz did that a year ago when she finished second to surprise winner Heather Daly-Donofrio. In 2003, Dorothy Delasin won the TOC in a playoff to get into the ADT.

``I'm just here to try and enjoy myself and see if I can get it around,'' Diaz said.

As the $850,000 tournament begins, Diaz and several other players will be attempting the last-chance climb into the top 30 to extend their schedules for one more week.

Sophie Gustafson is sitting on the bubble at No. 30 with $442,024, but No. 29 Karine Icher at $442,681 is the player in danger of being bumped. Even with a last-place check, Gustafson will pass Icher, who is not in the field of 43 LPGA winners and active Hall of Fame members.

Nicole Perrot, one of 11 players in their first TOC, is at No. 32 with $378,269 and needs to win or pick up the $85,833 second prize to pass Icher.

Diaz is playing for the first time since helping the United States win the Solheim Cup two months ago. She pulled out of two tournaments since then due to a rib injury and didn't make the tour's Korea-Japan swing because of her pregnancy.

Her baby is due Jan. 18, so if she doesn't advance to the ADT, she plans to return to competition at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April.

``My rib injury is partially due to the pregnancy and partially just a golf injury,'' Diaz said. ``I'm not able to hit it very aggressively.

``It's great to be back here for this event. I haven't played in a while, so it's good for my first tournament back to be at a place where I have a lot of good memories.''

Perrot was one of the last players to get into the TOC, winning the Longs Drugs Challenge one month ago. She's enjoying the perks that go with that victory, hoping it will lead to one more event.

``It's been a great year for me to get my first win and get into some of the end-of-the-year events like this,'' Perrot said. ``The win has given me a lot of positive energy. I hope to play well this week.

``This is a good golf course. You never know. I have a chance. I'm either going on to the ADT or I'm going back home to Chile, so either way will be good for me.''

November 10, 2005

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