Sorenstam wins, Wie disqualified at Samsung

Annika Sorenstam’s march to another LPGA milestone was overshadowed on Sunday by the disqualification of teen sensation Michelle Wie in her first professional start.

Initially lost in the hype surrounding Wie’s professional debut, Sorenstam was the undisputed star on Sunday as she posted an eight-shot victory at the $850 000 Samsung World Championship, while Wie was disqualified.

Wie finished with 11 consecutive pars en route to a two-over-par 74 that left her in fourth place at eight-under 280, a performance that earned kudos from Sorenstam.

But about 10 minutes after she signed her scorecard, she was brought back to the seventh hole by rules officials to discuss a drop she took during Saturday’s third round.

It was determined she violated rule 20-7—playing the ball from the wrong place—and should have been assessed a two-shot penalty.

Wie felt the ball was no more than three inches closer to the hole, while rules officials estimated it was a foot to 18 inches closer.

“If I had to make the ruling based on the videotape, to me it was inconclusive,” tournament official and manager of rules Robert Smith said. “The rules of golf are based on facts. They had to tell us where it was.
The fact was, the ball was closer to the hole by 12 to 18 inches.”

Wie was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard because she did not give herself a two-shot penalty to add to her third-round 71.

She had to forfeit $53 126 just hours after earning her first professional paycheck.

“I’m really sad that this had to happen, but a rule is a rule, whether it’s three inches or 100 yards, and I respect that,” Wie said.

“Obviously I’m really disappointed this happened in my first event. I learned a great lesson. From now on, I’ll call a rules official no matter where it is.”

While Wie left her first pro event with a sour taste in her mouth, Sorenstam will savour yet another sweet victory.

It was the fifth title at the event for Sorenstam, who defended her championship by finishing at 18-under 270. With the victory, her eighth of the season, Sorenstam joined LPGA legend Mickey Wright as the only women to win the same event five times.

Wright captured the Sea Island Open title five times in a seven-year span starting in 1957.

After surrendering the lead with an uncharacteristic one-under-par 71 on Friday, the Swedish star rebounded with a 66 to storm back atop the leaderboard at 15-under 201.

Sorenstam never was threatened on Sunday as she carded three birdies and an eagle and didn’t have a bogey until a double-bogey on her closing hole for a 69.

“Obviously, I’m very proud to finish up the way I did today,” Sorenstam said. “It’s very satisfying. It has been a big week for many reasons. To come out and play so solid for four days means a lot to me.”

She has now won nine consecutive times when she has entered the final round with the lead.

Sorenstam seemed to have no trouble coping with the intermittent rain that stopped play three times.

“The first rain delay, I hadn’t hit a tee shot yet, so I could just go back to the clubhouse,” she said. “And the second break I played nine holes, so it was like go in and have some lunch.”

Sorenstam said before the tournament that Wie’s precocious pro debut didn’t increase her sense of urgency.

But she admitted the chance to match Wright, and put herself in line for another Player of the Year award, were motivation.

“I don’t think I need to send a statement to anyone,” Sorenstam said. “There is no doubt about it that I wanted to play well this week. The reason of winning this tournament a fifth time is a big reason to play well. Getting a chance to win Player of the Year eight times, I believe no one else has done that.

“I’m also working on the scoring average, so there were many reasons I wanted to play well.

“I know the young ones are going to take over eventually, there’s no doubt about it. I love the position I’m in, and I’m not going to let it go too easily.”

One of those young ones, teenaged LPGA rookie Paula Creamer, signed for a two-under 70 to finish a distant second at 10-under 278. South Korea’s Gloria Park was another shot back after a 74.

Wie entered Sunday five shots behind Sorenstam and quickly had any thoughts of a dramatic comeback dashed.

The 16-year-old, who last week signed contracts with Nike and Sony worth an estimated $10-million, bogeyed three of her first five holes and had her lone birdie of the day at the seventh.

“I’m pretty sad, but I think I’m going to get over it,” Wie said. “It’s not the way I wanted to begin, but it’s all right.”

Smith said a spectator informed him of the possible infraction on Sunday.

“They were here yesterday and they told us about it today,” he said. “If we could have caught her in the tent at 18 [on Saturday], it would have been a two-stroke penalty—play golf today.

“But once that scorecard is signed, it’s history. That’s the sad part of this whole thing.” - Sapa-AFP

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