Se Ri Pak gains wire to wire victory
Morgan Pressel's hole-in-one sure got Se Ri Pak's attention.
Trailing briefly by three strokes after Pressel aced the sixth hole, Pak regained the lead with a birdie at the 15th hole and held on to tie an LPGA record with her fifth win at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic on Sunday.
Pak, who previously won the Farr in 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2003, matched Mickey Wright, who won the Sea Island Open in 1957-58, '60, '62-'63, and Annika Sorenstam, who has won both the Samsung World Championship and Mizuno Classic tournaments five times each.
The 29-year-old Pak, who has already qualified for induction to the Hall of Fame, has 24 career victories. She followed rounds of 63, 68 and 69 with a 67 to finish at 17-under 267 and collect the $195,000 winner's check. Pressel closed with a 69 and was three shots back at 270.
Pak and Pressel dueled all day until Pak finally broke a tie at the par-4 15th, almost holing an iron approach which ended up 2 feet from the cup. After Pressel's long putt from the back fringe came up a foot short, Pak rammed in the birdie to go ahead by a stroke with three holes left.
Pressel's approach at the 17th braked to a stop 2 feet away. But Pak rolled in a 6-footer for birdie before Pressel tapped in, maintaining her advantage.
At the 18th -- the second of back-to-back par-5 closing holes at Highland Meadows Golf Club -- Pak created a roar from the large gallery when she came within inches of holing her approach. Her tap-in birdie putt clinched the victory.
After her ace, Pressel was even par the rest of the way while Pak was 6 under.
Pressel, who started the day two shots back of Pak, needed just four holes to take the lead. She overcame Pak at No. 4 when she rolled in a downhill 12-footer for birdie while Pak failed to get up and down from the left greenside bunker.
After both players bogeyed the fifth, Pressel stepped to the tee first at the sixth. She pulled out a 7 iron and hit it to the front right edge of the green. "Get up! Get up!" she yelled at the ball. It did.
The ball kicked off a large mound just off the green, took a sharp left turn and disappeared into the cup. Pressel didn't pump her fist or jump for joy, but smiled and looked for somebody to celebrate with. The first person she met was her playing partner, Pak, and the two hugged. Then Pressel embraced her caddie, Jon Yarbrough.
A large gallery roared at the tee and the volume rose as she walked onto the green. She plucked the ball out of the cup, smiled, and acknowledged the cheers.
Pak had every reason to be shaken, since she still faced an 18-foot birdie putt. But she drilled it in the middle of the cup to trail by two strokes. It was a sign that she wouldn't back down.
Pak then pulled even with birdies at the eighth and ninth holes, hitting putts of 6 and 8 feet, to get to 14 under for the tournament.
With no one in the rest of the field ever within five shots of the lead, the Farr became a match-play event. The two traded pars on the first five holes of the back nine.
Despite 10 consecutive pars after her hole in one, Pressel never wilted. Rather, it was Pak who refused to leave her an opening.
Carri Wood had the best finish of her career, shooting a closing 69 to share third place with Wendy Ward (68), Laura Diaz (69) and Laura Davies (69). Wood had never been better than a tie for 12th in her previous 10 years and 152 LPGA starts.