Monday, September 03, 2007

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.(AP) Sherri Steinhauer was resigned to a playoff after her bunker shot rolled off the green on the 72nd hole of the LPGA State Farm Classic.

Instead, her 23-foot par putt from the first cut of rough fell into the cup, capping a wild finish that handed the 44-year-old Steinhauer her eighth career title and just the fifth wire-to-wire win on the LPGA Tour this year.

"I was just thinking two-putt and go for a playoff. Give it a chance, but just two-putt and go in the playoff and see what will happen. It went in. It was amazing," Steinhauer said after her first win since the 2006 Women's British Open.

The four-time U.S. Solheim Cup player shot a 5-under 67 to finish at 17-under 271, holding off a late charge by Christina Kim at Panther Creek Country Club.

The 23-year-old Kim closed with a 66. She tied for the lead briefly after holing the last of three closing birdies, a 28-foot putt from the fringe on the 18th.

Playing a hole behind Kim, Steinhauer answered, sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th to get to 17 under.

Steinhauer needed just a par on 18 to win the $195,000 top prize, but had to scramble after her second shot found the bunker and her sand shot went long.

Kim, also second last week in the Safeway Classic, said she never doubted Steinhauer would put the victory away in regulation.

"Sherri has one of the best short games out here. I knew she was going to get up and down. And she's made so few bogeys all week long, I didn't think she would want to add one on the 72nd hole," said Kim, also second in the 2004 State Farm Classic.

Steinhauer held off a pack of players who started the final round within three strokes of the lead, including 2006 champion Annika Sorenstam. The 36-year-old Swede came from five shots back a year ago to post the last of her 69 career wins.

Sorenstam pulled within a stroke of Steinhauer after a chip-in eagle on the par-5 13th and a birdie on the par-4 16th, but got no closer. Playing in her seventh tournament since an April neck injury, she shot a 67 Sunday to tie for third with Rachel Hetherington (69) at 14 under.

"I played pretty good this week," Sorenstam said. "I'm feeling better every day and the more I play the better I feel. So I think overall I have a lot of positive things to take from this week."

Steinhauer says putting landed her on top of the leaderboard each day of the tournament, and kept her on top to collect the winner's trophy as her parents watched after making a four-hour drive from Wisconsin.

"I tell you, there's nothing like winning and it was just amazing to be back on top again. I can't describe it. I'm just - boy, thank goodness for my putter or I wouldn't be here," Steinhauer said.

Angela Park (68) finished five strokes back at 12 under.

Top-ranked Lorena Ochoa skipped the tournament after winning three straight events to push her tour-leading total to six.

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