Pak Se-ri surges back with LPGA victory

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Pak Se-ri surges back with LPGA victory


Pak Se-ri tees off on 18 during sudden death in the LPGA Bell Micro Classic golf tournament in Mobile, Alabama, on May 16. [AP/YONHAP]

MOBILE, Alabama - Pak Se-ri ended a three-year victory drought with a birdie on the third playoff hole to beat Brittany Lincicome on Sunday in the rain-shortened - and delayed - Bell Micro LPGA Classic.

Pak, the Hall of Famer from Korea, used a nice bunker shot to set up the putt that sealed her 25th career win and first since she won the Owens Corning Classic in 2007. Pak hit within 10 feet below the hole on a fairway bunker shot from about 170 yards to give herself a birdie chance while Lincicome saved par with a long downhill putt.

“I’ve been here so many times, but I think I’ve been having a hard time the last couple of years,” Pak said. “I’m trying to get myself to better momentum. I work really hard every single day, every single moment, every single tournament.

“I knew this day was going to come. All I could do is be patient and work hard.”

Suzann Pettersen also made the playoff, but bogeyed the second hole on the par-4, 402-yard 18th and headed to the clubhouse at the Crossings Course at Magnolia Grove on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.

Pak, Lincicome and Pettersen were tied when they teed off together in the morning. An hour into their round of the two-tee start, the leaderboard had been shuffled and the threat of lightning sent the golfers scurrying off the course and into the clubhouse for a five-and-a-half-hour wait.

All three wore purple ribbons on their caps honoring Erica Blasberg, a six-year LPGA veteran who died a week earlier at her home in suburban Las Vegas. Police have not said whether foul play was involved, and the coroner said it could take four to six weeks to determine a cause of death.


Pak Se-ri, left, is doused by Chella Choi, right, after winning the LPGA Bell Micro Classic golf tournament on May 16. Pak beat Brittany Lincicome and Suzann Pettersen. [AP/YONHAP]

Pak, who also wore a pink wristband with Blasberg’s initials sandwiching a heart, is unbeaten in six career playoffs. She also won the Tournament of Champions on the Crossings Course in 2001 and 2002.

Lincicome made her earn No. 6, though. She sank a 30-foot putt after overshooting a bunker shot to force Pak to make her own shorter putt.

“I knew the sand in the bunker was really, really fluffy so thought I would kind of go down a little bit after it,” said the 24-year-old from St. Petersburg, Florida. “I tried to pick it a little bit and obviously I caught it a little bit clean. Then I hit one of the best putts I’ve ever hit.

“It was nice to be in that position and not miss it and make a bogey and just kind of give it to her. It felt kind of good to at least make her make that birdie.”

The sodden course had received about 4 inches of rain overnight and it was still drizzling throughout the playoff holes. LPGA officials went to the playoff on No. 18 and a 54-hole format with more bad weather forecast for Monday.

“I asked the rules official, ‘How many times has somebody ever played the same hole before?’” Lincicome said.

“She was like, ‘Please, let’s not go there.’”

Lincicome held a one-stroke lead over Pettersen going into the delay after a birdie on No. 3. She spent much of the down time playing cards with her niece and nephew and loading up on the Southern staple sweet tea.

Several players were threatening to catch the lead group on the leaderboard when play stopped. Lee Jee-young was 1-under through four holes to tie Pak for third place two strokes back. The biggest mover was Angela Stanford, who pushed to 11-under with three birdies in four holes.

Stanford won the event in 2008; it wasn’t held last year while the course was being renovated.

The three playoff contenders had combined for seven pars, one bogey (Lincicome) and one birdie (Pak) on 18.

All three parred the hole on the first playoff, and Pak and Lincicome did it again the next time.

Pettersen barely got her third shot onto the green on the second playoff to set up a bogey. She has two seconds and two third-place finishes in six events this season.

Pettersen made a hasty exit and did not talk to reporters. She was projected to supplant Shin Ji-yai at No. 1 in the rankings with a win.

Shin, Chella Choi and Amy Yang stuck around to cheer on their fellow Korean, clasping champagne bottles in hopes of a celebration.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that before where we celebrated together,” Pak said. “That really makes it special.”

Shin (minus 3) finished in a tie for 26th while three-time winner Ai Miyazato (even-par) was among the players at No. 49. Michelle Wie (plus 5) was last among the 73 players who made the cut.

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