Inkster walks away with World Championship

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Apart from a funky victory dance, Juli Inkster provided few dramatics in the final round of the Samsung World Championship in Vallejo, California.

Apart from a funky victory dance, Juli Inkster provided few dramatics in the final round of the Samsung World Championship in Vallejo, California.

Inkster beat Annika Sorenstam by four strokes on Sunday, punctuating her steady 3-under 69 with a par-saving putt from the fringe of the 18th green.

She finished her 25th career victory at 14 under, tying the tournament record on a Hiddenbrooke course that baffled most of the elite field of 20 golfers. Inkster earned dlrs 152,000 for her third World Championship in four years.

This was Inkster's third victory of the season and her first wire-to-wire win since 1992.

"It was fantastic to win it this way because there's not a slouch in this field," Inkster said. "I felt good about my swing all week. I thought I played terrific all week."

After Inkster sank her putt, she did a celebratory dance that may well have embarrassed her two young daughters. Still, 10-year-old Hayley and 6-year-old Cori dodged under the ropes and wrapped their mother in a hug.

Inkster, who lives in nearby Los Altos, received several standing ovations from a gallery that was clearly rooting for the hometown favorite.

Her steady Sunday round was a marked change from an up-and-down Saturday in which she made just five pars but still held on to the lead she took in the opening round.

"I needed lots of luck to catch Juli the way she was playing," Sorenstam said. "She's just so smooth. She didn't really make any mistakes until 18. She was never really threatened."

Sorenstam finished at 10 under, with Pat Hurst third at 4 under. Sorenstam had a 74 on Friday, sending her to the driving range in a frustrated rage. She said that round cost her the tournament.

Karrie Webb shot a 70 - the Player of the Year's ninth straight round in which she failed to break into the 60s - to finish two strokes behind Hurst. Lorie Kane, 1 under for the tournament in fifth place, was the only other golfer to break par.

Inkster won her sixth straight tournament in which she entered the final round with a lead. She began the final round with a four-stroke lead over Sorenstam in a rematch of their singles match, won in a rout by Inkster, on the final day of last week's acrimonious Solheim Cup.

The match looked enticing for the first three holes. Sorenstam used an exceptional iron shot to birdie the first hole and pull within three strokes of Inkster.

"I thought, 'Oh, boy, here we go.' I'm sure she wanted to take it to me, since I took it to her last week," Inkster said. "But I drove the ball well all week, and I hit my irons well today."

Inkster went up by five strokes when she birdied the fourth hole and Sorenstam three-putted for bogey. Inkster added another birdie with a standout sand save and a 15-foot putt on the fifth hole.

"She answered me very well all day," Sorenstam said. "I was hoping I could hit a lot of greens, but she did the same thing."

After a bogey on the ninth, Inkster added consecutive birdies on 11 and 12. Inkster and Sorenstam parred the final five holes, sapping the drama from the final pairing.

And that was just fine with Inkster.

"It's a great win, especially after losing last week (in the Solheim Cup)," Inkster said. "I hung with (Sorenstam) and eventually got the momentum back in my favor."

The course received mixed reviews from the golfers, most of whom couldn't master the Arnold Palmer-designed undulating fairways and fast greens. Grace Park finished with a four-day total of 303, 29 strokes behind Inkster, while defending champ Se Ri Pak shot a 70 on Sunday to finish at par for the tournament.

Final-round scores from the LPGA Samsung World Championship in California (USA unless stated):

274 J Inkster 69 67 69 69 278 A Sorenstam (Swe) 69 74 66 69 284 P Hurst 69 70 72 73 286 K Webb (Aus) 71 75 70 70 287 L Kane (Can) 70 71 75 71 288 Se Ri Pak (Kor) 72 72 74 70 289 Mi Hyun Kim (Kor) 73 70 75 71 290 M Mallon 69 75 74 72 291 M Redman 71 76 73 71 293 J Moodie (Gbr) 72 75 71 75 294 C Sorenstam (Swe) 73 75 73 73 295 S Steinhauer 77 72 73 73 296 R Jones 73 72 74 77, K Robbins 76 75 71 74 297 L Davies (Gbr) 76 71 73 77 299 C Kerr 77 71 72 79 300 D Delasin 73 75 75 77, S Gustafson (Swe) 72 77 74 77 301 S Yun Kang (Kor) 74 77 77 73 303 G Park (Kor) 76 75 75 77