Former Frog Stanford in U.S. Women's Open Playoff
July 6, 2003
NORTH PLAINS, Ore. -- On the biggest stage in women's golf, Angela Stanford, a 25-year-old who was a four-time All-American at TCU, sank a 20-foot putt on the 18th hole to force the first three-way playoff in 16 years at the U.S. Women's Open. She finished with a 1-under 283 and will return Monday morning for 18 more holes. Play will begin at 11:00 a.m. (CT). The playoff can be seen live on ESPN.
Also in the playoff are Kelly Robbins, who birdied two of the last three holes, and Hilary Lunke, who had to settle for par in a dramatic ending Sunday to a national championship that will go one more day.
But Annika Sorenstam won't be joining them.
The best player in women's golf was poised to win after a perfect drive on the par-5 18th hole, leaving her 236 yards away and making birdie seem like a done deal. Instead, she hit into the trees and into a bunker and finished with a bogey.
Sorenstam learned all about pressure two months ago at Colonial as the first woman in 58 years to play on the PGA Tour. It didn't pay off at Pumpkin Ridge.
She walked off the green stunned, yielding the stage to three players who will square off for the most prestigious prize in women's golf.
It will be the first playoff in the U.S. Women's Open since Se Ri Pak won at Blackwolf Run in 1998, and the first involving three women since Laura Davies defeated Ayako Okamoto and JoAnne Carner in 1987.
Lunke had a chance to win with the final putt, 15 feet below the cup for birdie. It had the right line, but came up a foot short. She closed with a 75.
Robbins, a major champion who hasn't won in more than four years, went below par for the first time all week with a two-putt birdie on the 18th hole. She closed with a 69, one of only three players to break par in the final round.
The biggest surprise was Stanford, who started the final round one stroke behind Lunke and struggled to stay at even par over the closing holes. Her 20-foot putt curled down the ridge and disappeared into the cup, giving her a 74.
Still, this was Sorenstam's tournament to win.
She captured the LPGA Championship last month with two clutch shots to make par on the first playoff hole, and a large gallery crammed in around the 18th hole was waiting for the inevitable.
What they saw was a wild 4-wood that sliced into the trees, landing next to a fence surrounding the portable toilets. Sorenstam took nearly 20 minutes to get relief from the fence and the scoreboard, but her troubles were only starting.
From a dry patch of thin grass to a green running away from her toward a collection area, Sorenstam dumped her pitch into a bunker and blasted out to 15 feet. The par putt never had a chance, turning a few inches below the hole.
Sorenstam never birdied the 18th hole all week, but this was painful. She closed with a 73, and wasted an opportunity to win her sixth major and third U.S. Women's Open.
''I wanted to make birdie,'' she said. ''Obviously, I played aggressive, it shot out to the right and the rest is history. I'm very disappointed, but I gave it my all.''
Sorenstam finished at even-par 284.
Aree Song, one of 14 teenagers at the U.S. Women's Open, birdied the final hole for a 74 that left her alone in fifth at 285. The 17-year-old Song was low amateur, and automatically earned a trip back next year.
Michelle Wie shot a 76 with a new caddie. Her father, B.J. Wie, turned the bag over to his 13-year-old daughter's swing coach for the final round, and perhaps for a while.
''I fired myself,'' the father said with a laugh. ''I caused too much trouble.''
Wie's first U.S. Women's Open was marred by a controversy over etiquette, resulting in allegations that Danielle Ammaccapane bumped her -- a claim B.J. Wie later retracted -- and that the 16-year veteran berated the ninth-grader in the scoring tent.
Even if Ammaccapane apologized, Wie said she wouldn't accept.
That mess should fade by the time Robbins, Stanford and Lunke tee off at 9 a.m. Monday, one more round on a Witch Hollow course that required nothing but the best golf under the most excruciating pressure.
Robbins, who won the '95 LPGA Championship, figures to be the favorite, especially the way she played Sunday. Her approach into 2 feet for birdie on the 16th gave her a chance, and Robbins hit a 3-wood into 25 feet for eagle on the final hole.
For the first time, her hands were shaking. She backed off the putt, gave it a good roll but came up a few inches short and to the left.
''It's safe to say I was feeling it,'' she said. ''And it was good to feel it again.''
A victory Monday would give Robbins the largest comeback in U.S. Women's Open history. She started the final round six strokes behind.
The finishes by Stanford and Lunke were even more impressive considering their position.
Neither had contended in a major championship. Both watched Sorenstam hit great shots ahead of them and take a share of the lead. Then, they had to wait for what seemed like forever as Sorenstam got her ruling, took her drop and then fell apart.
Lunke, one of the shortest hitters in the field, barely cleared the hazard and went into a bunker, but her 107-yard shot gave her a shot at birdie and the victory.
Stanford hit a safe approach and pitched to 25 feet.
With Sorenstam out of the picture, Robbins watched from the scoring trailer, wondering if she would be the U.S. Women's Open champion or have to play Monday.
''Once Annika made her 6 it was, 'Well, now what?' Anything can happen,'' Robbins said.
Stanford lived up to that prediction.
One week after winning for the first time on the LPGA Tour, Stanford pumped her first once into the air, looking as stunned as those around her.
''I don't think I played well enough today to win, so I'm lucky to be playing tomorrow,'' Stanford said.
Lunke wasn't perfect either, making four bogeys in a five-hole stretch on the front nine to turn the U.S. Women's Open into a test of survival.
Lunke was three strokes ahead of Sorenstam as she walked up the 13 fairway, but two bogeys and a 25-foot par save by the Swede changed everything.
''When we watched Annika make that putt on the 14th, my husband turned to me and said, 'Game on,''' Lunke said.
Unlike Sorenstam, she was up to the task when it mattered.