THE LPGA FIELDS OPEN
AT KO OLINA
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Meena Lee celebrated after defeating Seon Hwa Lee on the third playoff hole to win the LPGA Tour's Fields Open yesterday at Ko Olina Golf Club.
South Korean sweep
Meena Lee continues the country's dominance of the LPGA's first two weeks of competition
The young Americans may rock on the LPGA Tour, but the South Koreans rule.
Top finishers at the LPGA event at Ko Olina, with final score in relation to par and total winnings
|Seon Hwa Lee
x-won on third hole of playoff
For complete results, see today's scoreboard.
For the second consecutive week, a player from across the Pacific left the golf course with a trophy in one hand and a six-figure check in the other. Last Saturday, it was Joo Mi Kim at the SBS Open at Turtle Bay. Yesterday, it was Meena Lee at the Fields Open in Hawaii.
Both won in a playoff. Both beat a fellow Korean to finish first. Both are part of a 20-something generation who will go a long way in competing with their American counterparts for dominance on the LPGA over the next decade and beyond.
In only her second year on tour, Lee secured her second victory at the third playoff hole by sinking a 5-footer for birdie at the par-4 17th. Lee, who would have been rookie of the year in 2005 if not for Paula Creamer, caught her countrywoman at the 18th with a 6-footer for birdie.
The putt not only put pressure on Seon Hwa Lee, who was still on the course, but it also eliminated Michelle Wie from securing her first victory as a professional. Both Lees finished 14-under 202 in regulation, with Wie one shot back at 13-under 203.
As well as she played in front of overflowing galleries lining the Ko Olina Resort fairways, it was an uncharacteristic bogey at the par-5 13th that cost Wie a chance to win outright. Birdie that hole, as 21 golfers did, and Wie wins. Par that hole, as 45 others managed to do yesterday, and she's in a playoff. Bogey that hole, as only six golfers did all day, and wind up on the outside of the winner's circle, looking in.
"I didn't hit one fairway on that hole the whole tournament," Wie said. "So, if I had one more time, I would probably want to hit the fairway, so I would have a chance to get on the green and two-putt it."
Still, Wie whipped Morgan Pressel in their match-play pairing that had most of the crowd following the talented twosome throughout the day. Wie's final-round 66 was bested only by Meena Lee's 65, who secured an eagle on the par-4 second by holing a shot from 160 yards out.
Pressel closed with a pair of bogeys to finish with a 1-under 71 and a tie for 11th at 8 under for the tournament. She cried openly outside the scorer's tent as she tried to explain her collapse as Wie watched Meena Lee sink the putt at the 18th that sent her to the media room and an eventual third-place finish. Her first payday as a pro was worth $73,227.
Wie and Meena Lee began the day six shots off the pace. Seon Hwa Lee let a host of golfers back into the tournament with a closing 71, but few took advantage of it. Lorena Ochoa (70) and Natalie Gulbis (72) squandered several opportunities to take the lead with missed putts and poor approaches.
They finished in a tie for fourth at 11-under 205 with Nicole Castrale (69) and Julieta Granada (71). American favorites Cristie Kerr (69) and Creamer (67) made significant moves up the leaderboard, but neither was a factor the first two weeks of the LPGA season.
Those who were play golf well, but speak English poorly, making it difficult for them to convey their thoughts to a predominantly American press. Both Lees have faced each other in a playoff before with the same result. Meena Lee beat Seon Hwa Lee at the 2002 SK Invitation on the KLPGA Tour.
"It could be," Meena Lee said -- with the help of a translator -- when asked if beating Seon Hwa Lee in the first playoff gave her confidence in this one. "And it might just be luck, but I haven't lost a playoff (in four tries). Every time I have a playoff, I haven't lost any of them."
Seon Hwa Lee had several chances to win, but birdie opportunities slipped away at the 18th in regulation and again at the third playoff hole. It cleared the way for Meena Lee to win for the second time. Her 65 is a career best on tour.
"I think this win is more special because everybody thinks a rookie, a first-time winner, it could happen, but many people think there will not be a second time," Meena Lee said. "But I did it. I won for the second time and I'm happy."
The same can't be said for Seon Hwa Lee, whose last birdie of the day was at the par-5 14th. She managed three birdies and two bogeys after opening with a 65 on Thursday followed with a 66 on Friday.
"I already had a playoff with Meena in Korea, but I lose, so today I lose again," Seon Hwa Lee said with the help of a translator. "I'm a little disappointed, but I'll keep trying."