LPGA Tour Begins Stretch Run


2005 Safeway ClassicPORTLAND, Ore. - After a two-week hiatus, the LPGA Tour resumes this week with the Safeway Classic Presented by Pepsi at Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland, Ore., one of six full-field events remaining on the LPGA's official 2005 schedule.
A year ago, the par-72 course saw Hee-Won Han fire a final-round 67 to overcome a three-shot deficit and force a playoff with Lorie Kane. Han closed out the tournament on the first playoff hole to claim her third-career LPGA Tour title.
Han returns to defend her title against a strong 144-player field that will vie for the $1.4 million purse.
This season has been bittersweet for Han. Despite having five top-10 finishes, she has yet to reach the winner's circle. The leader after 54 holes at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic Presented by Kroger, Han faltered on the back nine, missing a sudden-death playoff by one shot after having a three-shot lead entering the final nine holes.
Defending her title will be tough as she faces a top-notch field that features four of the top five players on the ADT Official Money List.
The headliner is rookie Paula Creamer, currently No. 2 on the money list behind Annika Sorenstam. The 19-year old rookie has already won twice on Tour this year and three times around the world after winning the NEC Karuizawa-a tournament on the Japan LPGA-last week. Creamer is the youngest and quickest player in LPGA Tour history to earn $1 million and is also in contention for an automatic berth on the U.S. Solheim Cup Team.
Currently third on the money list, Lorena Ochoa is looking to take home a trophy for the second time this season. Ochoa has been in contention several times in 2005, racking up nine top-10 finishes, but her lone win came at the Wegmans Rochester LPGA, where she rallied to beat Creamer with six birdies on the final seven holes.
Natalie Gulbis, ranked fifth on the money list and in the midst of her best season on Tour, continues to challenge for her first win. At the Scandinavian TPC two weeks ago on the Robe di Kappa Ladies European Tour, Gulbis fell to Sorenstam, the tournament host, when the world number one rolled in a 27-foot birdie putt to seal the title.
During 2005, Gulbis has posted seven top-10 finishes and, like Creamer, has almost locked up a spot on the U.S. Solheim Cup Team.
Cristie Kerr, ranked first in U.S. Solheim Cup points and fourth on the money list, is also looking for her second win of the season after capturing the Michelob ULTRA Open at Kingsmill in May.
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