2002: Sorenstam again meets match in Pak

Mobile, Ala.

Se Ri Pak has stopped another Annika Sorenstam streak.

Pak started strong and finished even stronger Oct. 13 at the Mobile LPGA Tournament of Champions to stop Sorenstam’s victory string at three. Pak overcame a faltering Carin Koch, the leader after each of the first three rounds.

Pak trailed Koch by three strokes at the start of Sunday’s round, but had an eagle on the fourth hole to jump into contention. She then reeled off four consecutive birdies on Nos. 14-17 to halt Koch’s hopes and end Sorenstam’s bid for her 10th victory of the season. Pak’s final-round 66 put her at 20-under-par 268 and earned her a second consecutive Tournament of Champions victory.

Koch struggled with her putting in a final-round 73. She finished tied for second with Catriona Matthew (68) at 16-under 272.

Sorenstam now must win the last four events of the year to match Mickey Wright’s LPGA record of 13 victories in a season. The world’s No. 1 player got within a stroke of the lead after birdies at Nos. 3, 5 and 7, but had two bogeys on the back nine in a final-round 70 and tied for fourth with Wendy Ward (68) and Rosie Jones (69), five shots back of Pak.

Even so, Sorenstam’s presence kept Pak focused. Despite a swollen left arm caused by a bee sting before Saturday’s third round, she took the lead for good with her birdie at 15.

“That was pretty good in the end, a pretty good stretch,” said Pak of her four birdies. “Annika was right behind, so I knew I had to play well.”

Pak’s fourth victory of the season was the 17th of her career. She also ended a four-tournament winning streak by Sorenstam in 2001.

“I don’t think (Sorenstam) likes me,” Pak said jokingly. “I feel pretty sorry for her, but I was pretty hungry for the win, too.”

Koch, who had seemed in control all week, also wanted a victory. Although the Swede has had her most successful season – she came to Mobile with nine top-10 finishes and No. 15 in earnings – she was still seeking her first triumph of 2002.

But Koch, in stark contrast to her opening-round 62, couldn’t get anything going Sunday.

She birdied the second hole, but gave the stroke right back with a bogey at No. 3, and her birdie at No. 6 was offset by another bogey at No. 9. She also bogeyed No. 17.

“It’s disappointing to shoot 1 over par on Sunday of course,” said Koch. “I didn’t feel I played as bad as that score is, but I didn’t play great. I just couldn’t get the 10- to 20-footers to drop. I’ve just got to work a little bit on my swing so that it’s a little more consistent under pressure. It’s not quite there right now.”

Pak’s swing, on the other hand, seems to get even better when it really counts. She has come from behind in the final round in three of her four victories this year.

– Staff and wire reports

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