South Korea's Se Ri Pak won the fifth major championship of her career on Sunday.
Se Ri Pak recovers from golf burnout to win fifth LPGA major
HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. » The LPGA Tour must have written a script for their majors this year. It starts with a Hall of Fame player who has gone two years without winning, and continues with a spectacular shot that fans will talk about for years.
Two months ago, Karrie Webb won the Kraft Nabisco Championship by holing out a wedge from 116 yards that got her into a playoff that she won with a birdie on the first extra hole.
On Sunday at the LPGA Championship, it was Se Ri Pak's turn.
The 28-year-old South Korean, virtually forgotten for two years as she coped with burnout and injuries, sent the gallery at Bulle Rock into a frenzy late Sunday afternoon with a utility 4-iron from 201 yards that stopped 3 inches in front of the cup on the 18th hole for a stunning playoff victory over Webb.
"After I won Kraft, she came up to me whenever it was the next time I saw her and gave me a big hug and said, 'Good to see you back playing well. Now it's my turn. I'll win the next one,' " Webb recalled. "And she went and did it."
For Pak to be posing with the trophy was truly remarkable considering where she was a year ago, so burned out that she felt miserable on the golf course, going more than a year without a top-10 finish.
Even more unlikely was the shot.
It was reminiscent of Shaun Micheel hitting 7-iron to within 2 inches on the final hole at Oak Hill in 2003 to win the PGA Championship. Pak raised both arms, delivered a playful uppercut and then leapt into the arms of her caddie, T.J. Jones, a sign she was happier than ever.
"First time I jumped on the golf course," Pak said.
Pak, who closed with a 3-under 69, captured her fifth major and joined a storied list of three-time LPGA champions: Mickey Wright, Kathy Whitworth, Nancy Lopez, Patty Sheehan and Annika Sorensam.
It capped an extraordinary day at Bulle Rock, where a dozen players were separated by two shots as the leaders headed to the back nine and six players came to the 18th with a chance to win or at least get into a playoff.
» Michelle Wie
, Hawaii's 16-year-old phenom, was one shot behind and had a sand wedge from the 16th fairway when she missed the green and saw a 4-foot par putt spin 270 degrees around the cup. Then she missed an 8-foot birdie on the 17th, and wound up three-putting the last hole while trying to knock in a 50-foot putt to join the playoff.
"I feel like I'm getting closer and closer," Wie said. "It shows a lot that I played my 'B' game and I'm still in the top five."
» Shi Hyun Ahn was tied for the lead at 8 under until three-putting from just short of the 17th green, then her approach to the 18th went long and into the water.
» Mi Hyun Kim had a 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th that lost steam and turned away.
» Cristie Kerr was at 7 under and needed a birdie on the final hole. Pumped up after a big tee shot, she hammered a 9-iron so far it bounced off the rocks and into the water.
Throw in Annika Sorenstam for good measure. The three-time defending champion got within one shot of the lead at one point, but three-putted the 18th hole for bogey to finish three shots behind.
If that didn't give the fans at Bulle Rock a buzz, Webb and Pak put on quite a show after both had chances to win outright.
Webb was going for the second leg of the Grand Slam and looked like a winner when she was tied for the lead and stuffed her tee shot into 4 feet on the 171-yard 17th hole. But she misread the putt and settled for par, and when Pak reached 9 under playing two groups behind her, the Aussie knew what she had to do. She fearlessly attacked the back pin on the 18th, only to miss a 10-foot birdie putt, settling for a 68.
"I could sit here and dwell on that," Webb said. "Se Ri doesn't three-putt 18, I wouldn't have gotten to the playoff."
That's what Pak did, needing only two putts from 25 feet and running the first one 7 feet past the cup.
Then came the conclusion, and a shot for the ages.
For Pak, it was a sweet return.
She qualified for the World Golf Hall of Fame two years ago by winning at Kingsmill when everything went south. Golf had consumed so much of her life that she felt miserable inside the ropes and couldn't persuade herself to take a break. An injury to her wrist and finger took care of that, and Pak sat out the final three months of last year.
"A gift from God," she said.