JAL Big Apple Classic
JAL Big Apple Classic
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Steinhauer denies Kane first win in playoff thriller

In near darkness, Sherri Steinhauer won a five-hole playoff today to capture the Japan Airlines Big Apple Classic.

Steinhauer birdied the 18th hole to force the playoff with Lorie Kane, then made a 25-foot birdie putt on the same green to finally end the tournament.

Steinhauer's putt came on what would have been the last playoff hole of the day at the Wykagyl Country Club because of darkness. The two players had previously played the par-5 18th four times, parring every time, though Kane had birdie putts rim the cup on the third and fourth playoff holes.

Kane had blasted out of a greenside bunker to within 2 feet and was a lock to make par again on the fifth playoff hole before Steinhauer's winning shot.

For Kane, it was the eighth second-place finish in her four years on tour and the fourth playoff she has lost. A group of LPGA players, including Se Ri Pak, waited with champagne and beer off the 18th green ready to douse Kane had she broken through.

Instead, they surrounded the popular player and consoled her.

"Well, what can I say?" Kane said as she wiped tears away with a towel. "It's tough and getting tougher. ... It just isn't my time."

More than an hour earlier, Steinhauer had forced the playoff by sinking a downhill, 12-foot putt on the 72nd hole. That came one hole after Kane -- who played in the same group with Steinhauer all four rounds -- had made a 15-foot putt on the 17th hole to edge in front by a stroke.

The two players ended regulation at 11-under 273. Steinhauer, who led Kane by two shots entering the round, shot an even-par 71 today while Kane shot a 2-under 69.

Juli Inkster, failing in a bid to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame with a victory, shot a 1-under 70 and finished at 8-under 276 for the tournament. Tina Barrett also shot a 70 and was alone in fourth at 277. Pearl Sinn had an even-par round and finished alone in fifth at 5-under 279.

Steinhauer nearly ruined her chances with ghastly putting to start the back nine. At the time, she was at 10-under, one stroke behind Kane.

She drilled her approach on the 401-yard par-4 10th to within 2 feet of the pin, but pulled her birdie putt so badly it didn't even hit the cup. Another outstanding approach on the 11th left her with a 3-footer for birdie, but Steinhauer pulled that putt as well and it rimmed out.

On the par-4 12th, she rolled her first putt to within 2 feet, but pushed her par putt right to fall to 9-under.

Kane was having her own troubles. She made a 6-footer to save par on the 10th, but missed a 3-footer for par on the 11th. She went to 11-under by dropping her tee shot to within 2 feet on the 139-yard par-3 13th, but gave the stroke right back by missing the green with her approach on No. 14 and missing an 8-foot par putt.

Both players birdied the par-5 15th as Kane retained her one-shot lead at that point.

Inkster was seeking a victory which would have qualified her for the Hall of Fame. Under new, easier criteria approved by LPGA players this year, Inkster has 26 points -- two each for the five majors she's won and one each for her 16 other wins.

Twenty-seven points are needed for Inkster to become the 17th member of the hall.

She loomed near the top all day, but her putter never got hot and she could not overcome momentum-stealing bogeys on the first and eighth holes.

Rachel Hetherington shot a 66, tying the record for low nine holes at Wykagyl with a 30 on the front nine. She finished at 4-under 280 with a group that also included Laura Davies and Karrie Webb.

Pak, who led after the first and second rounds, fell out of contention with a 77 Saturday but eagled the 18th hole to finish at 70 and 2-under 282 for the tournament.