Originally created 10/17/00

Inkster blasts past field



VALLEJO, Calif. -- The world's best female golfers didn't stand a chance at the Samsung World Championship. If the course didn't get them, Juli Inkster did.

While stars like Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak floundered on the undulating Hiddenbrooke course, Inkster played as if she were in her back yard. And, in fact, she almost was, being from nearby Los Altos.

Inkster dominated the elite 20-player field, going 14-under for the tournament with a 3-under 69 Sunday to beat Annika Sorenstam by four strokes.

It was the 25th career victory and the third win of the season for Inkster, who won the invitation-only World Championship for the third time in four years.

"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."

How dominant was the Hall of Famer, who punctuated her final round with a par-saving putt from the fringe of the 18th green? Inkster was 12 strokes ahead of all but two players, and she beat half the field by 20 strokes.

After failing to catch Inkster -- or even slow her down -- the golfers could only applaud the 40-year-old mother of two, who said her family-first priorities don't sate her hunger for golfing success.

Her husband Brian, a club pro in Los Altos, has been golfing in Ireland for a week and won't be home until Monday. That's why Inkster was on the other side of the San Francisco Bay three hours after her final putt, chauffeuring her daughter to a softball game.

"Juli is impressive in many ways, not just in golf," said Sorenstam, who couldn't cut into her four-stroke deficit entering the final round.

"She has a great balance in her life. I don't know how she does it. Only a strong woman can do that."

After 25 career victories and six major championships, Inkster is in dominant form. The World Championship was her first wire-to-wire win since 1992 -- and her talk of retirement, which she said she would consider this fall, is decidedly on hold.

"I'm just going to take it one year at a time, but I still love golf," Inkster said, before adding with emphasis: "I don't like to play bad. I don't like to lose."

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.

The Hall of Famer tied the tournament record at 14 under and earned $152,000.

"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."

After Inkster sank her putt, she did a little celebratory dance that may well have embarrassed her two young daughters. Still, 10-year-old Hayley and 6-year-old Cori dodged under the ropes and wrapped their mother in a hug.

Her steady Sunday round was a marked change from an up-and-down Saturday in which she made just five pars but still held onto 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.

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 playing with 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 birdies on 11 and 12. Inkster and Sorenstam parred the final five holes, sapping the drama from the final pairing.

"Juli was just too good this week," Sorenstam said.