Originally created 06/12/06

Pak returns with a stunning shot to win LPGA



HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. - Burned out, injured and all but forgotten for two years, Se Ri Pak returned to the spotlight in stunning fashion Sunday when she hit a utility club 3 inches from the cup to give her a playoff victory over Karrie Webb in the LPGA Championship.

Pak atoned for a three-putt bogey on the 18th hole in regulation that kept her from winning, delivering a spectacular finish to a tournament that was up for grabs over the final two hours at Bulle Rock.

It all must have looked familiar to Webb, who was trying to capture the second leg of the Grand Slam.

Just two months ago, Webb holed a pitching wedge from 116 yards on the 18th hole at the Kraft Nabisco Championship for an eagle that got her into a playoff, and her victory was a sign that the Hall of Famer's game had returned.

"I thought I was getting my own medicine," Webb said after watching Pak's remarkable shot from about 200 yards.

Webb also had gone through some struggles while retooling her swing, and after winning the Kraft Nabisco, Pak saw her a few weeks later and gave her a big hug.

"She told me, 'Now it's my turn. I'll win the next one,'" Webb recalled.

Michelle Wie was among six players who had a chance to either win or get into a playoff on the final hole, but the 16-year-old from Hawaii wasted too many chances.

Pak's last victory was two years ago at the Michelob Ultra Open, which gave her enough points for the World Golf Hall of Fame. Then, the 28-year-old South Korean and her electric smile all but vanished from the LPGA Tour, and she sat out the last three months of the 2005 season to get healthy and get happy.

She was plenty happy standing in the 18th fairway in the playoff.

The ball rolled true to the hole and looked like it might go in, much like Shaun Micheel's 7-iron at Oak Hill when he won the 2003 PGA Championship, and it stopped 3 inches short.

Pak raised both arms in victory, then delivered a massive uppercut to signal her return.

Webb, who missed birdie putts of 4 and 10 feet on the last two holes in regulation, hit her approach in the playoff to about 20 feet, but the putt to force another hole veered well to the left.

Pak won her fifth major, and joined Mickey Wright, Kathy Whitworth, Patty Sheehan and Annika Sorenstam as the only three-time winners of the LPGA Championship.

Wie's third birdie in a five-hole stretch brought her within one of the lead, but she missed the 16th green with a wedge and watched her 4-foot par putt spin 270 degrees out of the cup. She narrowly missed an 8-foot birdie on the 171-yard 17th, then had to make a 50-foot birdie on the 18th to join the playoff. It looked good until the final few feet, then ran 8 feet by and she wound up three-putting for bogey and a 72 to tie for fifth.

"I feel like I'm getting closer and closer," she said. "It shows a lot that I played my 'B' game and I'm still in the top five."

Pak became the seventh South Korean in 14 events to win on the LPGA Tour, and it was fitting that hers came in a major. Pak was responsible for so many joining her in the United States, with 32 players from South Korea now on the LPGA Tour.

And she needed a few breaks.

She holed a 50-foot birdie putt on the par-3 12th hole to stay in the game, and she surged into the lead with a chip-and-putt birdie on the par-5 15th and a wedge from the rough to within 4 feet for birdie on the 16th.

Better yet, she put the three-putt bogey on the 18th hole in regulation out of her mind.

Pak laid back off the tee on the 385-yard closing hole in the playoff, leaving her a long shot with her utility club. But it never left its line, and all Webb could do was smile.

More than 10,000 people who walked through the rolling hills on the back nine and lined the 18th fairway got their money's worth. As the leaders headed to the back nine, a dozen players were separated by two shots.

One of those was Sorenstam, who made a gallant run at an unprecedented fourth straight McDonald's LPGA Championship, only to see any hope fizzle with a mental mistake. The Swede starting pouring in putts along the back nine, making four straight birdies, and was trying to make a 20-foot birdie on the last hole to post at 7 under.

But she ran it 10 feet by the cup and three-putted for bogey and a 68.

"I saw it was quick, but standing over it, you have to get to 7 (under), and sometimes things don't compute," Sorenstam said. "I just rammed it way too hard and I was thinking, 'Wow, you saw how fast it was; what are you doing?'"

Cristie Kerr also made a late charge and was at 7 under when she went after the back pin on the 18th. It sailed over the green, onto the rocks and into the water.

"I'm experienced. I've played in a lot of these," Kerr said. "The only person I can blame is myself."

Shi Hyun Ahn did the same, needing a birdie while playing with Wie and winding up in the water. By the end of the day, the show belonged to Webb and Pak, a flashback to their days of winning the majors.