Se Ri Pak returned from five weeks off to let it be known that she wants to break the stranglehold Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb have had on the LPGA’s Player of the Year and Vare Trophy awards.
In winning her fifth tournament of the season at the limited-field AFLAC Champions Sept. 30, Pak collected $122,000 and is $214,797 behind six-time winner Sorenstam, who skipped the tournament. Webb, who finished tied for eighth at AFLAC, is a distant third in earnings with only two victories – both majors.
With five events left, Pak, who gained 30 points for her victory, trails Sorenstam by 58.5 points in the Player of the Year race. A third-round 64 helped Pak lower her scoring average, which decides the Vare Trophy winner, to 69.65, just off Sorenstam’s 69.29.
Since 1995, Sorenstam and Webb have dominated the two most prized awards. Sorenstam was Player of the Year in 1995, ’97, and ’98, while Webb took that honor in ’99 and 2000. Laura Davies interrupted their run in 1996, when she recorded four victories, including two majors.
Sorenstam and Webb also won three Vare Trophies in that time span, too.
“It’s getting close,” Pak said. “I think I still have a chance. I feel great right now and I’m about to get pretty close to Annika, so at the end of the year we’ll know who’s going to be on top.
“If not, I’ve had a great season and I have a few years left, and I am not going to stop here because this is not my last year.”
Lorie Kane, who finished second by five strokes to Pak’s tournament record 16-under 272, wasn’t buying any of it.
“Se Ri wants to be No. 1,” Kane said. “I know Annika is now sitting at home twiddling her thumbs. She’ll be ready to come back (this) week at the Samsung (World Championship) but it could get interesting.”
More so than on the Magnolia Grove’s Crossings Course. For all intents and pur-poses, the tournament was over Saturday when Pak birdied the last six holes to polish off her 64 and take a seven-stroke lead.
Pak’s only big mistake of the tournament came Sunday at the par-4 15th, where her second shot from the rough sailed into the woods behind the green.
Pak took two shots to get out of the woods and the double bogey trimmed her lead to four shots. But a birdie on 16, followed by routine pars, secured the victory, which came two days after her 24th birthday.
“I’m very happy and am proud of myself,” she said. “I really tried to get a good birthday present for myself.”
Maybe the best presents will come belatedly.
– Compiled from staff and wire reports