AVENTURA, Fla. (AP) — At last year’s ADT Championship, when Annika Sorenstam’s first winless season since her rookie campaign came to a disappointing end, she issued what seemed like a vow.
“I’ll be back,” Sorenstam said that day in November.
Her performance this week shows she might be there.
Sorenstam’s par on the first playoff hole Sunday was good enough to beat Paula Creamer and win the Stanford International Pro-Am, the Swede’s 71st career victory on the LPGA Tour and one where she rallied from a one-shot deficit in the final two holes of regulation.
It was Sorenstam’s second win of 2008, albeit both in events where Lorena Ochoa – who had won in each of the last four weeks before deciding to skip this event – wasn’t in the field. Still, Sorenstam left Turnberry Isle on Sunday night convinced she’s heading into the remainder of the season with a slew of momentum.
“I’m very, very excited with the way this season has started,” Sorenstam said. “I feel like I’ve been very consistent. If we go back to the end of last season, the British Open and on, I’ve been top 10 every tournament except two. That’s as consistent as when I was at my peak. I feel good about my game. I would say it’s very, very close. This week, I hit the ball beautifully, I thought.”
Creamer wouldn’t argue with that.
She closed with a 69, and Sorenstam shot a 70. They finished at 8 under.
After a wayward 9-iron off the tee – “a careless shot,” she said – followed by a poor pitch, Creamer made bogey at the par-3 17th to lose the outright lead with one hole left in regulation. At the par-5 18th, Creamer pulled her chip from just inside of 100 yards and was left with a 25-foot birdie putt, which stayed out and forced her to settle for par.
Both laid up at the 18th in the playoff, with Creamer facing a tricky downhill birdie putt from just off the fringe, and Sorenstam leaving herself a birdie try from almost the same spot where she missed a potential winner in regulation.
Sorenstam missed, but Creamer’s 6-foot comebacker for par stopped short and gave the Swede the victory – her 16th in 22 career playoff appearances.
“It’s very disappointing,” Creamer said. “But at the same time, I’m going against one of the best players in the world ever to play golf. There’s a lot to learn from that.”
It was the first time in five weeks someone other than Lorena Ochoa won on the LPGA Tour. The top-ranked Ochoa skipped this event.
Young Kim (69) and Karrie Webb, who turned in the round of the week with a 7-under 64, tied for third, one shot behind Sorenstam and Creamer. Momeko Ueda (71) finished alone in fifth at 5 under.
It was Webb’s best finish since placing second at last year’s LPGA Championship, 17 events ago.
“It’s a good finish for me,” Webb said. “I would have liked to made the one on the last, but I feel great about things.”
Sorenstam has similar sentiments. And in the playoff, her experience shone through.
A first-time playoff participant, Creamer said her hands shook grasping her putter.
Sorenstam was the polar opposite, exuding nothing but coolness and confidence. That was the difference.
“That’s what I love. That’s why I do this,” Sorenstam said. “Not to say I want to have playoffs every week, but it’s a lot of drama and you have to hit that certain shot when it counts.”
Notes: Ochoa is expected to play next week when the tour heads to Broken Arrow, Okla. for the SemGroup Championship. … Moira Dunn, who went to college at nearby Florida International University, made a quad at the par-3 7th, then closed her day with a triple at the par-5 18th to finish 13 over. … Christina Kim, who led through 17 holes Thursday before a triple at the 18th, made bogey there Sunday, which was an improvement. For the week, she played three trips to the Soffer course’s finishing hole in 8 over, including a quadruple-bogey Saturday.