Originally created 10/16/00

Inkster wins World Championship



VALLEJO, Calif. -- After 25 career victories and six major championships, Juli Inkster admits her victory dances still need improvement.

The way she's been playing, she'd better start working on some fancy new steps.

Inkster beat Annika Sorenstam by four strokes to win the Samsung World Championship on Sunday, punctuating her steady 3-under 69 with a par-saving putt from the fringe of the 18th green.

The Hall of Famer finished at 14 under, tying the tournament record on a Hiddenbrooke course that baffled most of the elite field of 20 golfers. Inkster earned $152,000 for her third World Championship in four years.

About 18 months after she said she would consider retiring this fall, Inkster is in dominant form. The World Championship was her third victory of the season and her first wire-to-wire win since 1992 -- and the retirement talk is decidedly on hold.

"It was fantastic to win it this way because there's not a slouch in this field," Inkster said. "I felt good about my swing all week. I thought I played terrific all week."

After Inkster sank her putt, she did a little celebratory dance that may well have embarrassed her two young daughters. As Inkster pointed out, she has a history of bad dancing, most notably the jig she did at the LPGA Championship in 1999 to celebrate her career grand slam.

Still, 10-year-old Hayley and 6-year-old Cori dodged under the ropes and wrapped their mother in a hug.

Inkster won her sixth straight tournament in which she entered the final round with a lead. At 40, it's clear her famed competitive instincts are sharper than ever -- even when she's trying to finish a tournament in time to catch her kids' softball game three hours later.

"I needed lots of luck to catch Juli the way she was playing," Sorenstam said. "She's just so smooth. She didn't really make any mistakes until 18. She was never really threatened."

Inkster lives in nearby Los Altos, where her husband Brian is a club pro. She received several standing ovations from a gallery that was clearly rooting for the hometown favorite.

Her steady Sunday round was a marked change from an up-and-down Saturday in which she made just five pars but still held on to the lead she took in the opening round.

Sorenstam finished at 10 under, with Pat Hurst third at 4 under. Sorenstam had a 74 on Friday that sent her to the driving range in a frustrated rage. She said that round cost her the tournament.

Karrie Webb shot a 70 -- the Player of the Year's ninth straight round in which she failed to break into the 60s -- to finish two strokes behind Hurst. Canadian Lorie Kane, 1 under for the tournament in fifth place, was the only other golfer to break par.

Inkster began the final round with a four-stroke lead over Sorenstam in a rematch of their singles match, won in a rout by Inkster, on the final day of last week's acrimonious Solheim Cup.

The match looked enticing for the first three holes. Sorenstam used an exceptional iron shot to birdie the first hole and pull within three strokes of Inkster.

"I thought, 'Oh, boy, here we go.' I'm sure she wanted to take it to me, since I took it to her last week," Inkster said. "But I drove the ball well all week, and I hit my irons well today."

Inkster went up by five strokes when she birdied the fourth hole and Sorenstam three-putted for bogey. Inkster added another birdie with a standout sand save and a 15-foot putt on the fifth hole.

"She answered me very well all day," Sorenstam said. "I was hoping I could hit a lot of greens, but she did the same thing."

After a bogey on the ninth, Inkster added consecutive birdies on 11 and 12. Inkster and Sorenstam parred the final five holes, sapping the drama from the final pairing.

And that was just fine with Inkster.

"It's a great win, especially after losing last week (in the Solheim Cup)," Inkster said. "I hung with (Sorenstam) and eventually got the momentum back in my favor."

The course received mixed reviews from the golfers, most of whom couldn't master the Arnold Palmer-designed undulating fairways and fast greens. Grace Park finished last with a four-day total of 303 -- 29 strokes behind Inkster -- while defending champ Se Ri Pak shot a 70 on Sunday to finish at par.

Divots: Inkster withdrew from next week's AFLAC Champions tournament in Alabama so she can spend the week at home. Her husband Brian is due back on Monday from a week of golfing in Ireland. ... Charlotta Sorenstam finished in 11th place, 16 strokes behind her older sister Annika. ... Kane's caddie wore a New York Yankees cap.