Sunday, September 02, 2007

State Farm Classic – Final Round

Sherri Steinhauer capped off an exciting Sunday by sinking a 20-foot putt for par at the 72nd hole to win the State Farm Classic. Christina Kim birdied the last three holes to finish second by one. Annika Sorenstam and Rachel Hetherington tied for third at -14, three strokes back while Angela Park was fifth at -12.

Sherri began the day strong with three birdies over the first seven to reach -15 and a three-shot lead. She bogeyed 8, saved par from six feet at 9 and then birdied from six feet at 11 to remain up by three. One group ahead at the 13th, Annika rammed in a 30-footer for eagle and Christina tapped in for birdie to put them both -13 and two behind. Steinhauer missed her six-foot birdie attempt at 12 and lipped out a 10-footer at 13 to stay -15. Hetherington birdied 12 from eight feet to get to -12 but then missed from 10 feet on 13 and lipped out a five-footer at 14. With the leader playing 15 at -15, Sorenstam and Kim were two back with Hetherington three back.

The par-5 16th is where the fireworks started. Annika putted from about 25 yards away to three feet and sank her birdie for -14. Christina blasted out of the greenside bunker to two feet and tapped in to also go -14. Back on 15, Rachel rolled one home from 18 feet to get within two shots as Sherri missed her 15-foot attempt. At 17, both Sorenstam and Kim missed the green right and left respectively. Annika’s chip burned the hole and rolled three or four feet past. Christina chipped hers onto the fringe and it curled right into the hole for a birdie two! She was tied for the lead for about 30 seconds, because back on 16 Steinhauer rolled in a 20-footer to take it right back. Sherri had played poorly out of the greenside bunker and was putting from just off the fringe. Hetherington also birdied 16 to keep herself within two and tied for third with Sorenstam, who converted her par at 17.

Playing 18, Annika’s approach landed in the rough on the right-front of the green while Christina landed in the left fringe. Sorenstam needed to chip in to have any chance for victory but while it was online it stopped rolling a foot short of the hole. Back at the par-3 17th, Sherri’s tee shot bounced right past the hole and rolled 20 feet up the hill. In one of those incredible moments of “take that---no, you take THAT”, Kim curled her 25-foot birdie putt home to tie for the lead and Steinhauer coaxed her 20-footer down the hill and into the cup to take the lead right back AGAIN. I can’t tell you how riveting it was to watch this stuff.

And it wasn’t even done yet. After a perfect tee shot on 18, Steinhauer lost her approach shot right – it just cleared the water hazard and bounded into the greenside bunker. With the thoughts of Sherri’s poor bunker shot on 16 (which setup that first great birdie putt) still in my mind, she skulled this one and it rolled through the green and stopped a couple of feet into the rough. So she had one putt of over 20 feet to win and two putts to reach a playoff. Steinhauer rolled it through the rough and the fringe and dropped it dead-center.

For once I am in agreement with Grant Boone – other than maybe last year’s Kraft Nabisco, I can’t remember an LPGA finish with so many outstanding clutch shots. To top it off, Steinhauer’s parents were on-site to witness it. I’m disappointed that Christina Kim didn’t win, but there’s no way I could be disappointed with the outcome. Great show, Sherri!

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