Inkster successfully defends title

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The Independent Online

Despite everything Juli Inkster has accomplished in her golf career, she manages to stay motivated.

She proved it on Sunday by successfully defending her LPGA Longs Drugs Challenge title with a five-stroke victory after shooting even-par on the final day in Lincoln, California.

Inkster had a tournament-record 13-under 275 total at Twelve Bridges Golf Club. The Hall of Famer earned dlrs 105,000 for her 23rd career victory.

"I don't really see myself in the Hall of Fame and think that I don't have to play good golf anymore," said Inkster, who won last year's tournament by four strokes. "I am still hungry and I have a lot of desire to play well. When I'm on a good roll like last year, I can win a lot."

Brandie Burton closed with a 74 to finish second. Sweden's Carin Koch (74) was another stroke back at 281, and Australia's Rachel Heatherington (73) finished fourth at 284.

"Juli played good all around," Burton said. "She flat out ran the field."

A year ago, Inkster won four of six tournaments when she was the leader heading into the final round.

She did it again in Lincoln, taking control from the start when she hit a 9-iron to within one inch of the cup, tapping in for a birdie.

"It is always a little nerve-racking to be the leader and the front-runner, but I like it because it makes me focus on what I am doing," Inkster said. "I think my game is always pretty aggressive. It just stays the same."

After a relatively calm morning, the weather became a factor on the final nine holes with wind gusts over 20 mph (32 kph).

Leading by three strokes, Inkster birdie three of the first four holes and was 3-under on the front side. She struggled over the final nine holes on a day when only eight players broke par.

"I played well on the front side. On the back side I had some bad swings and it cost me," said Inkster, who had a double bogey and two bogeys on the back nine. "The wind was tough. It was playing havoc with my swing."

Inkster, who had only three bogeys through three rounds, bogeyed No 10 and had a double-bogey on the par-5 No. 12. She chipped short from the walnut chips on her third shot, went past the pin on another chip, then three-putted for the double.

With her lead at five strokes, Inkster responded by hitting within 2 feet (60 centimeters) of the pin on the par-3 13th. She made the birdie putt, moving to 15 under and getting the lead back to six strokes.

"That was huge; it's such a tough hole," Inkster said. "There is not much room for error. It was a great shot in there. Then I made the putt."

Burton made her second birdie at No. 14 and Inkster saved a double-bogey with a 4-foot putt as the lead dipped to four strokes. Burton bogeyed the next hole to drop five strokes back.

"It was never over," Burton said. "But every time I made a birdie, I would take a step back. I could never make a charge."

Final scores from the $700,000 LPGA Longs Drugs Challenge, played on the 6,388-yard, par-72 Twelve Bridges Golf Club Course:

Juli Inkster 70-67-66-72-275 Brandie Burton 69-69-68-74-280 Carin Koch 69-69-69-74-281 Rachel Hetherington 66-74-71-73-284 A J Eathorne 76-67-68-74-285 Becky Iverson 72-72-70-72-286 Annika Sorenstam 71-73-69-73-286 Cindy Figg-Currier 66-74-74-73-287 Dottie Pepper 73-72-72-71-288 Kate Golden 71-71-71-75-288 Kris Tschetter 72-69-72-75-288 Jill McGill 69-70-73-77-289Joanne Morley 78-71-70-70-289 Sophie Gustafson 70-73-76-70-289 Kelli Kuehne 72-71-74-72-289 Angie Ridgeway 73-73-70-73-289 Jean Bartholomew 73-74-73-70-290 Diana D'Alessio 71-73-76-70-290Sherri Turner 71-71-77-71-290 Mary Beth Zimmerman 73-73-72-72-290 Amy Fruhwirth 72-74-72-72-290 Leta Lindley 73-70-75-72-290 Karen Weiss 75-70-72-73-290 Barb Whitehead 70-74-73-73-290 Jane Geddes 71-72-73-74-290 Mi Hyun Kim 72-74-69-75-290 Maria Hjorth 72-72-70-76-290

Selected Others:

Chris Johnson 76-73-71-71-291 Pat Hurst 73-76-69-73-291 Charlotta Sorenstam 75-71-72-74-292 Michele Redman 76-70-74-73-293 Mhairi McKay 69-75-76-73-293 Emilee Klein 76-68-72-77-293 Cindy Flom 75-74-75-70-294 Se Ri Pak 70-74-77-73-294 Laura Philo 76-73-73-73-295 Sherri Steinhauer 73-73-76-73-295 Donna Andrews 74-71-79-72-296 Tina Barrett 79-70-72-75-296 Leslie Spalding 71-73-75-78-297 Wendy Ward 73-76-76-73-298 Michelle McGann 75-73-76-76-300 Cathy Johnston-Forbes 75-71-77-77-300 Nancy Scranton 75-74-73-79-301 Pat Bradley 76-72-76-78-302