Annika Sorenstam birdied 16 to take the lead and 17 to put away the SBS Open at Turtle Bay. Laura Diaz, Jane Park and Russy Gulyanamitta tied for second at -8, two shots behind. Angela Park and Momoko Ueda tied for fifth at -7. It is the 70th victory of Annika’s career and her first since September 2006.
Until the last handful of holes, any one of a dozen players had a good chance to win. Sorenstam was hitting every fairway and green but wasn’t running away from the field. She birdied 10 from 20 feet to reach -9 and take a two-shot lead, but gave one back when she three-putted for a bogey at 11. For the next several holes, it seemed no one wanted to claim a share of the lead. Ueda missed a birdie to tie from five feet at 11 and Gulyanamitta came up short on a 20-footer at 14. Jane Park was only three feet away when she missed for birdie at 12 and then Ueda again failed to tie for the lead when she rimmed out from six feet at 12. Playing the par-5 12th with Ueda, Annika blasted out of a greenside bunker but left herself 30 feet short. For the second hole in a row she putted well past but made the four-foot par comebacker, using three-quarters of the cup to do it.
At the 15th Jane Park broke through with a bomb from across the green to tie for the lead. Mark Rolfing stated that if the ball hadn’t hit the hole, it would have rolled off the opposite edge of the green. Seconds later, Ueda rolled in a 15-footer af the 14th to make it a threesome. Meanwhile Angela Park had overcome a two-stroke slow play penalty at 10, birdying 16 to close within one. At this point with just a couple of holes remaining, six players were within one shot. Angela was only four feet away at 17 but missed the par putt to end her hopes. Ueda dropped a shot at 15 but recovered at 16 with a 40-footer that was absolutely drilled. Sorenstam had put her approach to only four feet and she easily sank the putt to regain sole possession of the lead.
Gulyanamitta took the clubhouse lead when she made the putt of the day – from at least 50 feet away on 18, she rammed it home to post -8 and get back within one. Ueda’s chances ended when she missed the green right at 17 and took bogey. Annika had 25 feet downhill for birdie and coaxed it in to take a two-shot lead, suddenly draining the life from an event that only minutes before was an absolute free-for-all. Laura Diaz made birdie at 18 to join Russy and Jane in a tie for second, but Sorenstam got safely home to win by two.
To keep this synopsis from getting too insane to read, I omitted a lot of detail. When I said a dozen players had a good chance to win, I would add Ji-Yai Shin, Yani Tseng, In-Kyung Kim, Cristie Kerr, Erica Blasberg and even Paula Creamer to the six players I mentioned in the previous three paragraphs. At various times, each of these players was within two shots and several were even tied for first. Defending Champ Creamer got to -6 (only two back at the time) before bogeys at 15 and 16 derailed her.
More to come.