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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2006 > LPGA > McDonald's LPGA Championship > Round 4
 

LPGA CHAMPIONSHIP RELATED STORIES





Se Ri Pak defeats Karrie Webb in playoff

The shot was spectacular enough, a hybrid 4-iron from 201 yards that held a picturesque line in the air and on the green until it settled 3 inches from the cup to give Se Ri Pak a stunning victory Sunday in the LPGA Championship.

What she relished was her reaction.

Pak raised both arms in the air, then delivered a playful uppercut. When the magnitude of the shot sunk in, she leapt into her caddie's arms with that dynamic smile that, along with her game, had been missing from the LPGA Tour for the better part of two years.

"First time I jumped on the golf course," Pak said.

Her playoff victory over Karrie Webb was a sign that Pak was on top of her game again, especially the way she held off a dozen challengers -- from an early charge by Annika Sorenstam to a late surge by Michelle Wie -- on a bustling afternoon at Bulle Rock.

The jump was pure joy, something that had been missing her from life.

Burned out by so much golf that she found herself miserable on the course, an injury late last year forced Pak to sit out the last three months of the 2005 season and reassess what's important. She returned happier than ever, especially when her shot on the first playoff hole nearly went into the cup.

"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."

For Webb, it all looked so familiar.

Two months ago, she returned to the grand stage by holing a wedge from 116 yards on the final hole at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, which put her into a playoff that she won with a birdie on the first hole. When Pak's ball stopped and cheers resounded across Bulle Rock, Webb could only look down and smile.

"I thought I was getting some of my own medicine back," Webb said. "I was waiting for it to drop in the hole."

Webb missed birdie putts of 4 feet and 10 feet on the final two holes and closed with a 4-under 68. Pak could have won in regulation, but she three-putted for bogey on the 18th hole and shot 69.

Four other players had a chance to join them at 8-under 280 with a birdie on the 18th hole. Cristie Kerr and Shi Hyun Ahn hit into the water, My Hyun Kim missed a long birdie putt, and Wie wound up three-putting when her 50-footer to join the playoff just missed to the left and ran 8 feet by.

Wie made three birdies in a five-hole stretch to get within one shot, but a 4-foot par putt swirled 270 degrees around the cup on the 16th, she grazed the lip with a 10-foot birdie on the 17th and she settled for a tie for fifth, two shots behind.

"I feel like I'm getting closer and closer," Wie said. "It shows a lot that I played my `B' game and I'm still in the top five."

Pak made it all the way back, winning for the first time since she reached the performance criterial for the World Golf Hall of Fame two years ago in Kingsmill. It was her 23rd career victory, fifth major, and she joined a storied list of three-time winners of the McDonald's LPGA Championship -- Mickey Wright, Kathy Whitworth, Nancy Lopez, Patty Sheehan and Sorenstam.

Webb heard it coming, then saw it coming.

Pak gave Webb a big hug when she saw her after the Aussie won the Kraft Nabisco.

"I'll win the next one," Pak told her.

It looked unlikely on the 18th hole in the playoff when Pak popped up a 3-wood that left her 201 yards to the hole. Webb crushed a driver and had only 132 yards.

"I thought I had the upper hand," Webb said. "But then she hit an unbelievable shot, and it's just really hard to come up with the good after that."

Sorenstam made a gallant run at an unprecedented fourth straight LPGA Championship, only to see any hope fizzle with a mental mistake. The Swede starting pouring in putts along the back nine, making four straight birdies, and was trying to make a 20-foot birdie on the last hole to post at 7 under. But she ran it 10 feet by the cup and three-putted for bogey and a 68.

"I saw it was quick, but standing over it, you have to get to 7 (under), and sometimes things don't compute," Sorenstam said. "I just rammed it way too hard and I was thinking, 'Wow, you saw how fast it was; what are you doing?"'

Pak, 28, became the seventh South Korean in 14 tournaments this year to win, and her victory is the third for South Koreans in the last four majors. Birdie Kim won the U.S. Women's Open, and Jeong Jang won the Women's British Open.

Pak, however, is the one who got it all started.

She was the only South Korean on the LPGA Tour in 1998 when she won the LPGA Championship and U.S. Women's Open as a rookie. Now, there are 32 players from South Korea, but she is still the grand dame.

"She is the face of Korean golf," Webb said. "All the young Koreans out here, if they don't already know, they should know now how much she's done for them."

Pak needed a few breaks to remind everyone of her star power.

She holed a 50-foot birdie putt on the par-3 12th to take the lead, and she recovered from a tee shot into the hazard on 13 by hitting fairway metal out of the rough and onto the green to escape with bogey. Then came a chip-and-putt birdie on the par-5 15th, followed by a wedge from the rough to 4 feet for birdie on the 16th.

It all led to an improbable finish, from her three-putt in regulation to a shot for the ages in the playoff.

"That was not an easy shot," she said. "The game of golf, you never expect it from anywhere. So that shot 's going to be the best shot for the week."

Then she laughed, the best sign of all that she was back.

 

 




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