Originally created 10/13/03

Gustafson wins LPGA Samsung World Championship



THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- Sophie Gustafson eagled the first hole and birdied eight others en route to an 8-under 64 on Sunday, then overcame a rules dispute regarding one of her putts to win the LPGA Samsung World Championship.

The 29-year-old Swede finished at 14-under 274, two shots better than third-round leader Rachel Teske and Beth Daniel, who was one shot off the pace when play began Sunday at the Tournament Players Course at The Woodlands, just north of Houston.

Teske faded with bogeys on two of the final three holes.

Gustafson ran into a rules dilemma on the 14th green. After standing over a birdie putt, she backed off as the ball, on the edge of a slope, rolled on its own for several feet. An LPGA official allowed her to play the ball from the new spot and she made par, prompting questions whether she should have been assessed a penalty.

After her round, she was taken to the NBC television truck where LPGA officials discussed her actions, reviewed a video of her play with her and determined she did nothing illegal - that she hadn't grounded her club but merely had taken her stance before putting.

"We were not going to dispute her credibility," LPGA official Jim Haley said. Tour rules officials also added that the video was inconclusive.

The controversy marred an otherwise spectacular final round for this year's European Tour player of the year.

Gustafson started the day at 6-under and five shots behind third-round leader Teske and soared into contention quickly. She holed a bunker shot at No. 1 for an eagle, then birdied four of the next five holes. When she converted yet another birdie at the par-4 385-yard No. 7 - to go 7-under for the day, she had grabbed the lead at 13-under for the tournament.

Gustafson finally stumbled at the par-4 No. 9 when her chip from below and to the right of the hole plopped into a bunker. By the time she left the green with a double-bogey 6, she had surrendered the lead back to Teske, who had eight straight pars on the front nine after opening with a birdie and made the turn at 12-under.

But Gustafson rebounded with a birdie at the par-4 10th hole to climb back into a tie for the lead with Teske, then birdied No. 13 as Teske, playing two groups behind her, was rolling in a birdie at 12.

Teske, meanwhile, regained the lead with another birdie at the par-5 13th while Gustafson was dealing with her problem at 14. But the Swede shook off any controversy with a birdie of her own at No. 15 to go to 14-under and equal Teske.

When Australian-born Teske, looking for her third LPGA victory this year, bogeyed 16 and 17, Gustafson cruised home with a par on 18.

Gustafson hadn't won on the LPGA Tour in almost three years but has been victorious in recent tournaments in Ireland, where she won the Ladies Irish Open, Sweden and Spain and has 15 international titles.

Daniel, whose 33rd career victory this year at the Canadian Women's Open made her at age 46 the oldest winner on the LPGA Tour, birdied No. 1 but never could get closer than a shot off the pace. She finished with a 2-under 70 Sunday.

Also with a 70 Sunday was Annika Sorenstam, the defending champion who earlier this week qualified for the LPGA Hall of Fame. She got as close as one shot off the lead, but wound up in the water at the par-4 17th hole, leading to a double bogey and ending her chances of a repeat. She finished at 11-under 277, three shots behind Gustafson.