Originally created 10/14/02

Pak overtakes Koch to defend title



MOBILE, Ala. -- Se Ri Pak birdied four of the last five holes Sunday to overtake Carin Koch and successfully defend her title in the Mobile LPGA Tournament of Champions.

Pak closed with a 6-under 66, eagling the par-5 fourth hole and taking control with four straight birdies on Nos. 14-17. She finished with a four-stroke margin over Koch and Catriona Matthew.

"After last year, I think I know how to play this golf course, especially since I won this tournament," Pak said. "I have a lot of confidence, so I played well again."

The 25-year-old South Korean star had a tournament-record 20-under 268 total on Magnolia Grove's Crossings Course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. She earned $122,000 for her fourth victory of the year and 17th in five full seasons on the LPGA Tour.

Annika Sorenstam fell short in a bid for her 10th LPGA Tour victory of the year, three-putting for bogey on the 18th hole for a 70 to tie for fourth - five strokes behind Pak.

Sorenstam needs to win the final four events of the season to tie Mickey Wright's single-season victory record of 13 set in 1963. The Swede won her last four individual tournaments - the Compaq Classic in Sweden and three LPGA Tour events.

Sorenstam reached 16 under with three front-nine birdies, but lost a stroke on the back nine with two bogeys and one birdie.

"I saw her score on the front nine," Pak said. "I knew that Annika was going to be the one to start firing on the back nine. Annika was right behind, so I knew I had to play well."

Pak also ended Sorenstam's four-tournament winning streak last year with a victory in the Longs Drugs Challenge.

"It was disappointing," said Sorenstam, who parred the easy par-5 16th when she trailed Pak by two strokes.

"I had a 4-wood to the green and just missed it to the right," Sorenstam said. "That really wasn't the problem. I still could have made birdie with an up-and-down and I still could have birdied 17 and 18."

Pak, the first player to successfully defend her title in the Tournament of Champions, broke her own tournament record of 16 under set last year.

Koch, the leader after each of the first three days after opening with a career-low 62, shot a 73, while Matthew had a 68.

"It's very disappointing," Koch said. "I knew if I could shoot 3 or 4 under and get it to 20 or 21 under, someone would have to go low. I didn't feel like I played as bad as my score, but I didn't play great. If three or four putts drop, that makes a big difference. I've just got to work on my swing so that it's a little more consistent under pressure. It's not quite there right now."

The Swede birdied the second hole, but bogeyed the second before Pak and Sorenstam made their moves. Sorenstam birdied Nos. 3 and 5, while Pak eagled No. 4.

Koch managed to hold onto the lead until Pak birdied the 14th to tie her. Pak birdied the 15th to take the lead for good.

Wendy Ward (68) and Rosie Jones (69) matched Sorenstam at 15 under, and Laura Diaz (67) and Emilee Klein (73) were 14 under. Sorenstam earned $34,916 to raise her record total to $2,408,907.