LPGA FIELDS OPEN
Hawaii LPGA tourneys go Lee-ward
The tour's youngsters get a shot at Sorenstam in the first major of the season next month
The inaugural Fields Open in Hawaii may be remembered more for what didn't happen than what did.
World No. 2 Paula Creamer got as much air time during her two-week stay in Hawaii as world No. 1 Annika Sorenstam received snow skiing in Montana.
Her best in three tournaments here entering her sophomore season on the LPGA Tour is Saturday's tie for 11th at the Ko Olina Resort.
Natalie Gulbis continued her run as being the top tour player not to win a tournament. She's 0-for-111 lifetime, yet started the 2006 season ranked 76th in career earnings with nearly $1.8 million entering only her fifth tour of duty.
Lorena Ochoa went south of the border once more when the pressure-packed moments came a calling. She, too, has visions of being the best in the world, but must learn to steady her hand when they give out the trophies.
Ai Miyazato may have won the title at the LPGA's qualifying school by a staggering 12 shots last fall, but she was just another golfer in the field who happened to have an entourage of Japanese media worthy of Ichiro Suzuki.
Her tie for 24th was an improvement over her tie for 48th at the season-opening SBS Open at Turtle Bay, but her transition to the majors will be more difficult than Ichiro's.
Morgan Pressel may want to reconsider tugging on Michelle Wie's cape.
After several controversial statements about Wie's path to success in recent years, Pressel came face-to-face with Wie in Saturday's stare-down and blinked back the tears by day's end. She wound up in a tie for 11th with Creamer.
And what about Wie? For all the talk of how well she played Saturday, the 16-year-old still has problems finding the right stroke at the critical moment.
"How can we beat the Tiger?" her father once asked two years ago at the Pearl Open. Make that birdie putt at the final hole on your home floor.
Most of these golfers will meet again one month from now at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Palm Springs, Calif. Sorenstam rejoins the fray at the first major of the LPGA season and probably views these competitors as pretenders as much as anything.
The South Korean connection might offer a stiffer challenge to Sorenstam's iron-fisted rule. After the Swede won the first two majors of 2005, it was Koreans Birdie Kim and Jeong Jang who won the U.S. and Women's British opens, respectively.
There was plenty of press surrounding Wie, Pressel, Creamer, Ochoa, Gulbis and Miyazato this past week, but it was Meena Lee holding the trophy aloft by Saturday's end. Like Joo Mi Kim managed at the SBS Open, the first full-field event of 2006, Lee won in a playoff by beating a fellow countrywoman.
Second-round leader Seon Hwa Lee fended off Wie's army down the stretch on Saturday, but let Meena Lee slip through on her flank. Playing behind Pressel and Wie, Meena Lee holed out an eagle-2 from 160 yards at the par-4 second to begin her own long march up the leaderboard.
Her final-round 65 was one shot better than Wie's stellar 66, but that one slim stroke led her to a championship, while leaving Wie alone in third.
Wie watched Meena Lee make her birdie at the last from across the water at the 18th near the scorer's tent. Her reaction was a nervous laugh as she was led away to the media room, dealing with the knowledge that she couldn't win from there.
Meena Lee waited patiently to see if Seon Hwa Lee could find a birdie in her bag down the stretch, but it wasn't meant to be. It took until the third playoff hole for Meena Lee to close it out, but there's a reason she's 4-0 in career playoffs, two of those over Seon Hwa Lee -- mental toughness.
And that's one thing some of these young women lack as they try to track down Sorenstam. At this level, everyone has talent. It comes down to making putts. Those who do, win. Those who don't watch those who do take home the top prize.