Pak closes in on Sorenstam

Associated Press
Saturday, March 17

PHOENIX – The first 59 by a woman in competition was a round for the ages. Now Annika Sorenstam wants to forget it.

Sorenstam, who made a record 13 birdies Friday, had four Saturday but bogeyed the last hole for a 3-under 69, leaving her only three shots ahead of aggressive Se Ri Pak going into the final round of the Standard Register Ping.

 Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam, right, checks her scorecard with her caddie, Terry McNamara, on the eighth fairway on Saturday.
"I've got a lot of work tomorrow, especially if Se Ri is playing like this," Sorenstam said. "I can't think about Friday too much anymore; it's going to ruin the tournament for me."

Sorenstam's second bogey of the tournament and first in the last 47 holes left her tied with Karrie Webb for the LPGA's 54-hole scoring record at 23-under 193. Webb set the mark last year in East Lansing, Mich.

Pak finished at 196 -- making this the first LPGA tournament in history in which two players have been 20-under or better after three rounds.

Pak had two eagles, including one hole-out from the fairway, on her way to a 63. That tied Kris Tschetter's opening round for the second-best score in Moon Valley Country Club history and guaranteed someone will be in range of Sorenstam when the final round of the $1 million event starts Sunday.

"There was nobody close to Annika, but golf is kind of a silly game, so who knows," Pak said. "Today I just thought, 'Why not? Annika shot 59.' I was trying for 58."

Everyone else in the field would need something approaching Sorenstam's masterpiece to get into the running.

Yu Ping Lin had third to herself at 205 after shooting 68.

Tschetter, who trailed Sorenstam by eight shots to start, took a quadruple-bogey on the 16th hole and staggered in with a 75, trailing her playing partner by 14 shots at the end. She was joined by Akiko Fukushima (71) and Laura Diaz (74) at 207.

Formidable golfers like Lorie Kane, Nancy Scranton and Dottie Pepper were in a six-way tie at 208, and Webb (67) finished in a group of eight at 209.

One of the others at 209 was Catriona Matthew, who won the Hawaiian Ladies Open -- the last event before Sorenstam began a remarkable run by winning in Tucson with a record 23-under.

Applause greeted Sorenstam on arrival in the tee area, where the announcer asked the gallery to "Welcome Mrs. 59."

But Sorenstam was shaky after a nearly sleepless night.

"I was twisting and turning and thinking about my round and everything," she said. "So when it was time to come here and get ready, I was already tired. I almost felt like I had a hangover from all the excitement. When I look back at the round, I'm very happy with 69."

She needed to sink a 9-foot putt to save par on No. 2 and took until the fourth hole to get her first birdie. Sorenstam reached the green of the 511-yard hole in two shots and two-putted from 25 feet to go 21-under.

In the meantime, Pak began the all-out assault she promised after assuring listeners that Sorenstam could be caught.

The long-hitting star, who won the season opener in Orlando, Fla., birdied the first hole, bogeyed the third to fall back to 11-under before getting an eagle at No. 4 with a 20-foot putt.

Then Pak turned up the heat -- birdies on three of the next five holes, followed by her second eagle on No. 10. Pak lofted a pitching wedge from 97 yards and the ball landed about 20 feet away, bounced and rolled toward the uphill side of the cup, where it toppled in to send her to 18-under.

But then Pak went five holes without a birdie, and Sorenstam saved her lead with good putting.

Seconds after Pak's eagle two groups ahead, Sorenstam birdied No. 9, two-putted from 13 feet for par on the next hole and sank a 5-footer to save par on No. 11.

She opened a five-stroke lead with a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 12, and got another birdie on the 17th hole before two-putting for bogey from 20 feet at the end.

Pak got the last two of her six birdies on Nos. 16 and 17.