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Pak Whittles Down Sorenstams Lead

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Se Ri Pak fired a 9-under 63 Saturday to pull to within three shots of third-round leader Annika Sorenstam at the Standard Register PING. Sorenstam followed up her record-setting second round with a 3-under 69 to tie the LPGA's 54-hole scoring mark of 23-under 193.
 
Pak, who saw her share of the all-time 18-hole record fall by the wayside after Sorenstam completed an amazing round of 13-under 59 on Friday, exacted a little revenge with a scorecard that included six birdies and two eagles.
 
'Nobody thinks they have a chance to get close to Annika, but golf is kind of a loose game,' said the 23-year-old Korean, who began the day in third place, nine shots behind Sorenstam. 'Today I was thinking, `Well, why not? Annika shoots 59, so I am trying to hit 58 or 57. Why not? I can do it too.''
 
Pak sank a 12-foot putt for birdie at the first hole but gave the stroke back when she missed a four-footer to save par at the third. But her day got better from there as she knocked a 7-wood to 20 feet at the par-5 4th and rolled in the putt for an eagle. Pak added birdies at Nos. 6, 8 and 9 to make her way out in 5-under 31.
 
Pak kept things going on the back nine when she holed an approach wedge from 90 yards out at the 534-yard 10th. She hit a lull with five straight pars starting at 11, but put together a strong finish with a five-foot birdie putt at the 16th and a 20-footer at the 17th.
 
Pak broke the LPGA's long-standing mark of 62 with a 61 at the Kroger Classic in her rookie year of 1998. Sorenstam matched the record round a year later and Karrie Webb carded a 61 of her own in the 2000 Oldsmobile Classic.
 
Pak, who captured the season-opening event in Orlando, is seeking her 10th victory on the LPGA Tour.
 
But first she will have to get past Sorenstam, who suffered a bit of a letdown Saturday after becoming the first woman to shoot a sub-60 score.
 
'I almost felt like I had a hangover,' said Sorenstam, who admitted she had trouble sleeping Friday night. 'I was so exhausted from all the excitement and everything, so, you know, now when I look back at the round, I'm very happy with 69 because it didn't feel like I could do anything this morning.'
 
In contrast to Friday when she reeled off eight consecutive birdies to kick off her round, Sorenstam managed just two birdies to make the turn Saturday at 22-under for the tournament.
 
She flashed back to the day before with a birdie putt from about 30 feet at the 12th, and later made an eight-footer at 17 to get to what would have been a record 24-under-par. However, Sorenstam needed three putts to get down from 20 feet at the last for her first bogey
 

'I didn't make as many putts and, you know, I was four-under after 17, and I just felt like I was miles away from yesterday,' said the 30-year-old from Sweden. 'But, you know, that was maybe what was to be expected.'
 
Sorenstam, who has won 17 of the 30 events in which she held the third-round lead, can break the LPGA's 72-hole mark with a 4-under 68 on Sunday.
 
Webb shot a record 26-under 262 in the 1999 Australian Ladies Masters, an official LPGA event that year. She also established the 54-hole record of 193 in last year's Oldsmobile tournament.
 
Last week, Sorenstam posted a six-shot victory over Pak and three others at the Welch's/Circle K Championship for her 24th career win on the LPGA Tour.
 
Yu Ping Lin of Taiwan is in distant third at 11-under, while Akiko Fukushima, Laura Diaz and first-round leader Kris Tschetter are 14 shots off the pace at minus nine.
 
Webb, the winner here in 1999, stands tied for 13th at 7-under.