WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Annika Sorenstam’s worst year since she was a rookie offered one last hope Friday afternoon in the ADT Championship when she was among three players desperate to claim the last two spots in the chase for $1 million.
Considering how her season has gone, she might have seen this coming.
Sorenstam hit a quick hook with a 5-iron into the face of a bunker, blasted over the green and was eliminated in a 3-for-2 playoff at Trump International, ending her year without a victory for the first time since 1994.
“I’ll get over it,” she said tersely. “I’ll be back.”
Just not for the weekend, where the 16 players who advanced to Saturday will start the third round with their scores wiped clean.
Ai Miyazato of Japan saved par with a 7-foot putt on the 17th hole in the playoff, and two-putted from 35 feet on the 18th hole for par to secure one spot. The other went to Natalie Gulbis, who also had pars on the two playoff holes.
Mi Hyun Kim had a 2-under 70 and finished atop the leaderboard at 7-under 137, one shot better than Kraft Nabisco champion Morgan Pressel, who switched to a conventional putting grip for the first time in her life and is seeing instant gratification.
The clutch play came from Karrie Webb, who opened with a 76 and was on the verge of going home until she shot 70 with a stunning finish. Webb was a 3 over and hopeful of two-putting from 50 feet to at least get into a playoff. She fell to the ground when her putt dropped into the hole for birdie, qualifying for the weekend.
The quirky nature of this format was best illustrated at the end of the day. When the playoff was over, Miyazato and Gulbis instantly picked up 10 shots on the leader because everyone starts Saturday with a clean slate.
Also in the 16-way tie for first were Lorena Ochoa, Christina Kim, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, Sophie Gustafson, Paula Creamer, Juli Inkster, Nicole Castrale, Catriona Matthew, Seon Hwa Lee and Sarah Lee.
The field will be cut in half to eight players after Saturday, and the scores again will be wiped clean, setting up an 18-hole shootout Sunday with $1 million going to the winner. Second place is worth $100,000.
This is the second year of this format, and the second year Sorenstam was headed home on the weekend. But it was not nearly as shocking this year considering her circumstances. She missed nearly two months of competition with injuries to her back and neck, and figures she played at full strength in less than half her events.
But she was playing better, that might be the most frustrating of all.
Her opening 74 was slowed by three balls in the water. She came out firing in the second round with three birdies on the first six holes when her 4-iron to the peninsula green on the par-3 seventh faded slightly and into the water. She took a penalty drop into a hanging lie in the rough and nearly shanked the next shot into the water. Once on the green, she two-putted for a quadruple-bogey 7.
“That’s probably the toughest thing you can do in golf is to get off to such a great start and then walk away after the seventh hole and be 1-over par,” she said. “It’s tough to describe in words, but it feels like you get stabbed in the back, even though it was your own fault. I was on such a high, and then you’re on such a low in 10 minutes.”
Worse yet was missing a 3-foot par putt on the 16th, then narrowly missing a birdie putt on the 18th.
Nothing stung like the playoff among three players with worldwide appeal in women’s golf. Sorenstam was in great shape off the 18th tee on the second extra hole, but she came over the top of the 5-iron, it hooked sharply and all she could see in the fading sunlight was a white splash of sand. Sorenstam faced a long bunker shot on the upslope, and she misjudged the distance.
The 20-foot par putt from off the back of the green never had a chance. And after Miyazato made a 4-foot par putt, with Gulbis only a foot away for par, Sorenstam nodded to Gulbis to finish up as she handed her caddie the putter.
“The bad second shot set me up for a tough shot,” Sorenstam said. “I had a chance to be part of the weekend, and it didn’t happen.”
The low round of a cool, blustery day belonged to Pressel, the 19-year-old who lives a half-hour away and has playing privileges at Trump International. She ran off eight birdies in her round of 65 to easily qualify for the weekend, and give her renewed confidence that a mini-slump might be over.
What helped was her putting grip. Pressel has been cross-handed since she first placed a putter in her hands as a child, but after more frustration at the Mizuno Classic, where she finished 25th.
“I putted better than I can ever remember putting, so that’s kind of nice,” Pressel said. “This is the best I’ve played in a very long time. I’m pretty happy about that.”
Still to be determined is who has the momentum — those who have played well for two days but now have to start over, or those who narrowly squeaked into the final 16 and feel as though they have a second chance.
“The first part of the job is done,” Pettersen said. “Now, we’re all starting over.”