Pak Making Her Own Mark in Womens Golf

By Associated PressJune 5, 2003, 4:00 pm
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) -- Five years from now, Se Ri Pak could see herself at the top of the LPGA Tour with a record that might surpass Annika Sorenstam.
The 25-year-old South Korean already has won 20 times and four majors. At that stage in her career, Sorenstam, 32, had won only 16 times with two majors.
Pak listened to the comparisons Wednesday at the LPGA Championship and nodded her head, a quiet approval of where she is and how good she can be.
'One of my goals was to make as much history as I can, which is not easy,' Pak said. 'But I feel as great about the next five years or more. My success is going to be much better.'
She already is Sorenstam's equal in one area -- the majors.
Last year, Pak made up a four-shot deficit at DuPont Country Club and won by three shots, finishing at 5 under on the toughest course the LPGA Tour faced all season.
That made her the youngest woman to win four majors -- the same number Sorenstam has won in her 10 seasons on tour.
'I want to win more majors,' Pak said. 'I would love to win four majors in one year. I try every single year, but I already miss the first one, so that screws up the year.'
She has come a long way in just a short time.
Pak hasn't mastered the English language, but she is just as engaging as she was during a brilliant rookie season that came to life in the LPGA Championship.
She won by three shots for her first victory -- 'I didn't know this was a major when I won,' she said -- then captured the golf public a month later with a 20-hole playoff victory in the U.S. Women's Open.
'This really helped my success,' Pak said.
Sorenstam is plenty successful in her own right. She already has 44 victories, including back-to-back titles in the Nabisco Championship and U.S. Women's Open to account for her four major championships.
She will be inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame this fall. Sorenstam has been the LPGA Tour player of the year five times in the last eight years.
Most of all, she has brought new fame to women's golf by playing in the Colonial, the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour. Sorenstam missed the cut by four shots (71-74), but handled the scrutiny with incredible poise and style.
She wanted to challenge herself against the men, and Sorenstam also wanted to get her game ready for the majors. Compared to other feats, her record in the majors is lacking.
'The majors is what means the most to me,' she said. 'I've won 44 times, but I want some more majors, so that's my biggest challenge, to see if I can peak when I want.'
Overnight rains and heavy clouds canceled the pro-am Wednesday, and the course was closed on the eve of the LPGA's second major of the year. Sorenstam practiced Tuesday and noticed the rough taller and thicker than ever.
'You can't get away with bad shots here,' she said. 'If you hit them good, you'll score well. That's what I love about this golf course.'
All that's lacking are the results.
Her best chance to win the McDonald's LPGA Championship came six years ago, when she played bogey-free until the final hole, where she three-putted from close range, missing a 2-foot par putt that kept her out of the playoff.
She never had much of a chance last year, when the course was firm, fast and as tough as anything the women saw all year.
Sorenstam lost her patience on the rock-hard greens in the second round and shot 76, and when Sunday arrived, she found herself 14 shots out of the lead. She closed with a 65, the best score of the tournament, just to finish third.
'I won four majors, but I never won here,' she said. 'I know I have the game for this course, and I've won majors, so I know I can do this. I haven't performed as well as I should for four days, but hopefully it will change this year.'
She has never been more poised to do that.
Despite the mental fatigue of playing in front of 20,000 fans on every hole at Colonial, Sorenstam bounced back quickly and defended her title last week in Chicago. She bogeyed the last two holes and still won by three.
The soggy conditions at DuPont fall right into her game plan.
The course figures to play much longer than its 6,408 yards because drives won't roll much on the fairways. Sorenstam leads the LPGA in driving distance at 276 yards.
The rough is so deep that Pak lost two balls during a practice round Tuesday. Sorenstam is renowned for her accuracy off the tee.
'I've got to hit good drives and make putts,' Sorenstam said. 'This is a big tournament, but I've got to focus on my game, and if I can do that, I think things will be all right.'
The first round of the McDonald's LPGA Championship begins Thursday at 4:00 PM ET on The Golf Channel.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage of the McDonald's LPGA Championship
  • Bio: Se Ri Pak

    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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