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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2006 > LPGA > ShopRite LPGA Classic > Round 3
 

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Seon-Hwa Lee snatches title with closing 63

Seon-Hwa Lee finally got the victory she's been chasing. Annika Sorenstam didn't.

In a topsy-turvy final round, the 20-year-old LPGA Tour rookie closed with an 8-under par 63 on Sunday to win the ShopRite LPGA Classic. Her 16-under 197 total matched the tournament record held by Sorenstam, who is in the midst of an uncharacteristic victory drought.

It was the first LPGA tour victory for Lee, who has finished second three times this year. And it could be a harbinger of things to come.

"She's really good," said Jeong Jang, who finished in a three-way tie for second with Sorenstam and Sherri Steinhauer. "She hits far and she can putt. I think she's going to be really good."

She was Sunday.

Lee shot the lowest round of the three-day tournament, overtaking another 20-year-old rookie -- second-round leader Ai Miyazato -- with a relentless assault on the 6,071-yard Seaview Resort & Spa course

Lee hit a pitching wedge from 97 yards to set up a 5-foot putt for birdie at No. 10, followed it with 20-footer on the next hole and then added an 18-foot birdie putt at No. 12. And she wasn't finished.

She dropped her approach shot on the 382-yard No. 13 6 feet from the hole, then made the putt to pick up another stroke.

Another 5-footer for birdie at No. 17 put her at 15 under, although she didn't know it until her caddie told her as they walked up the fairway at No. 18. There, she made a 5-foot putt for birdie.

On a day when six players either had or shared the lead, it was Lee who was left standing -- dripping in beer and champagne on the 18th green -- at the end.

"She played brilliant," playing partner Patricia Meunier-Lebouc said. "She was very relaxed, very cool and calm."

Sorenstam (67), Jeong Jang (64) and Sherri Steinhauer (66) tied for second.

"This means a lot to me, because this is my first win on the LPGA Tour," Lee said, after being showered with champagne and beer on the 18th green. "I'm very happy."

Lee's best showing until Sunday had been a playoff loss to Meena Lee in the Fields Open in Hawaii in February.

Defending champion Sorenstam, who has won only once this year, saw her fortunes fade with more of the uneven play that has plagued her in recent months.

Coming into the final round one stroke back of Miyazato, she bogeyed two of her first three holes.

She appeared ready to rally after sinking a 10-foot putt for birdie at No. 10, which put her at 11 under. But she bogeyed the next hole and played even par down the stretch before holing 40-foot putt for eagle at No. 18.

It was a rousing finish, mirroring last year's Classic, when she clinched a four-shot victory over Juli Inkster with a 38-foot eagle putt on the same hole.

But it wasn't enough.

"I made a few mistakes out there early on, which kind of set me back and was tough to catch up," said Sorenstam. "But 16 under is a great score for three days. When they play well, there's not much you can do."

But she was encouraged by her play in the event, and said she feels confident heading into next week's McDonald's LPGA Championship.

"Well, things are starting to turn around. I made a few putts and I drove it really well. I think I missed a few early on, but other than that it was just down the middle," she said.

Sophie Gustafson, who made three birdies and an eagle in her first nine holes Sunday, was on pace to challenge Lee, coming into the final hole at 13 under. But she lipped the cup on an 8-foot putt for birdie and then missed the two-foot comeback putt for par, losing a stroke she could ill afford.

The 20-year-old Miyazato struggled all day with her putter and shot 3-over par 74, finishing nine shots off the lead.

 




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