Golf: Steinhauer holds on to defend Open crown

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The Independent Online
THE AMERICAN Sherri Steinhauer holed a six-foot birdie putt at the 18th to become the first player in 18 years to stage a successful defence of the Weetabix British Women's Open here yesterday.

With a level-par 73 the 36-year-old finished on nine under at 293 and clinched the pounds 100,000 first prize by a shot from Sweden's Annika Sorenstam. Steinhauer, one ahead at the start of the round, opened with a double- bogey and it became a real battle as a host of players mounted a challenge for the coveted title.

Afterwards Steinhauer, the first player to retain the title since another American, Debbie Massey, in 1981, said: "This has to be one of my greatest ever rounds of golf. It was so tough because I started the day out in front and everyone was talking about the possibility of the successful defence.

"The pressure was really tough and it was even worse after the double- bogey at the first. But to make the putt at the last for birdie was an amazing feeling."

Helen Dobson was the leading British player in joint third place, two behind Steinhauer on seven under alongside the Australian Fiona Pike and another American, Cindy Flom.

Dobson had raised hopes of becoming the first home winner since Alison Nicholas in 1987 when she made her fourth birdie of her back nine at the 16th. But the 28-year-old from Skegness, who plays mostly in the States and was eighth at the US Open this year, three-putted to drop a shot at the 17th and the optimism subsided.

"I thought I needed to birdie the last two to have a chance, or at least get to eight under," she said after shooting a joint best-of-day 70 for 295 and a pounds 31,150 prize. "But the 17th cost me dear."

For Sorenstam, who closed with a 72, it was another case of so near and yet so far. It is the third time she has finished second and it could so easily have been a first victory if a number of short putts hadn't slipped by.

"But I passed a few people and I have to be happy with that," said the 28-year-old, who now has her sights set on regaining the No 1 spot from Australia's Karrie Webb.

Yorkshire's Rebecca Hudson closed with a 76 for a level par 292 and just missed winning the Smyth Salver for the top amateur by a shot from Italy's Giulia Sergas.

WEETABIX BRITISH OPEN (at Woburn) Final scores: (GB or Irl unless stated): 283 S Steinhauer (US) 72 70 68 73 (pounds 100,000); 284 A Sorenstam (Swe) 69 71 72 72 (pounds 60,000); 285 H Dobson 71 72 72 70, C Flom (US) 71 74 69 71, F Pike (Aus) 70 70 71 74 (pounds 31,600 each); 286 E Klein (US) 72 70 73 71, S Gustafson (Swe) 73 69 72 72, M Lunn (Aus) 71 72 70 73, I Tinning (Den) 68 69 75 74, C McCurdy (US) 73 70 68 75; 287 S Mehra (Ind) 70 70 76 71; 288 C Koch (Swe) 74 72 72 70, S Strudwick 71 70 76 71; 289 R Jones (US) 73 71 73 72, L Philo (US) 69 71 75 74, L Neumann (Swe) 72 70 72 75; 290 D Richard (US) 72 73 73 72, L Navarro (Sp) 70 70 77 73, M McNamara (US) 72 70 75 73, T Kimura (Japan) 69 74 74 73, C Figg-Currier (US) 69 76 72 73, V Van Ryckeghem (Bel) 72 75 70 73, K Taylor 73 71 72 74; 291 G Sergas (It) 71 73 74 73, J Morley 70 75 73 73, A Nicholas 73 71 73 74, M Hjorth (Swe) 71 68 77 75, S Lowe 72 74 70 75, M Yoneyama (Japan) 73 70 72 76, P Meunier Lebouc (Fr) 73 70 72 76, M Yoneyama (Japan) 73 70 72 76; 292 K Marshall 72 75 72 73, C Nilsmark (Swe) 72 71 76 73, M Hirase (Japan) 73 72 74 73, D Barnard 73 72 74 73, S Cavalleri (It) 73 72 73 74, Y-C Huang (Tai) 71 75 72 74, R Hudson 72 69 75 76; 293 L Davies 72 75 75 71, T Barrett (US) 75 71 75 72, M McKay 76 69 75 73, C Dibnah (Aus) 69 75 75 74, K Webb (Aus) 71 75 73 74, J Head 71 74 73 75, R Higashio (Japan) 72 73 71 77.

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