Sorenstam keys International team to victory over Asia in Lexus Cup

Associated Press

Series:

Published: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 | 8:59 p.m.

SINGAPORE (AP) -- Annika Sorenstam celebrated two big victories in her second-to-last event before retiring.

For starters Sunday in the Lexus Cup, the International team captain waited out a lightning delay to finish off Asian counterpart Se Ri Pak 3 and 2 in the opening singles match, the longtime stars' first match-play showdown.

A couple of hours later, American Christina Kim gave Sorenstam an even bigger victory, finishing with a birdie on the par-5 18th against Namika Omata for the winning half-point in the three-day event at Singapore Island Country Club.

"It's one thing to be inside the ropes in control, but when you're cheering for everyone you want to help them however you can," said Sorenstam, set to end her Hall of Fame career next week in the Ladies European Tour's Dubai Ladies Masters.

"I kept getting goose bumps after goose bumps out there. I was really into it. I'm really proud of this team for trying so hard. I could not have asked for a better ending. ... There is nothing like a team event and, when you pull it all together, the atmosphere and camaraderie is one of a kind."

Kim's halve gave Sorenstam's International team a 12 1/2 to 11 1/2 victory, ending the side's two-year losing streak and evening the series 2-2.

"I'm amazed it came down to my match," said Kim, the outcome left to her and Omata after the 11th and 12th matches ended early. "I think I started walking before I even hit the putt out there. This is such a thrill. To be here and to win for Annika is the greatest feeling. To have it come down to me. I was scared blankless."

Kim was asked about Sorenstam -- with Sorenstam listening.

"She's been a huge icon in golf in general," Kim said. "She's a true icon. She's one of those people you come across once in a lifetime. We didn't only know her, but competed against her. Truly an honor. The only thing left is making babies. The passion, everything that you've done is a milestone. You've been a historic person."

Pak bogeyed three of the first five holes to hand Sorenstam a 3-up lead, then won Nos. 6 and 8 to cut the deficit to one. Sorenstam parred the 12th to make it 2 up, then matched Pak with birdies on 13 and 14 before adding a third straight birdie on 15 to restore her 3-up cushion. Then, after the delay, both parred 16 to end the match.

"She's done so many things on the LPGA. We're going to miss her," Pak said. "I'm not used to her being gone. I played with her two hours ago. Of course, I'm going to realize I can't see her as much. She's probably one of the great players in the LPGA. Everybody dreams to be like her."

Angela Stanford, Katherine Hull, Helen Alfredsson and Natalie Gulbis also earned full points for the International team, while Suzann Pettersen and Karen Stupples halved their matches.

Stanford beat Seon Hwa Lee 4 and 3, Lee's second straight loss after opening her Lexus Cup career 7-0-0. Hull edged Jeong Jang 1-up to finish the week 3-0-0, Alfredsson topped Inbee Park 3 and 2, and Gulbis beat Mayumi Shimomura 2 and 1.

Gulbis also talked about Sorenstam after the event.

"What I will miss the most is what she brings to tournaments," Gulbis said. "Not only is she one of the best players, but class and confidence and how she treats the fans, sponsors and fellow competitors."

Pettersen halved with Yani Tseng, and Stupples split with Eun Hee Ji. Pettersen, from Norway, teamed with Sorenstam on Saturday when the Swede holed a 45-foot eagle chip for a final-hole victory.

"She's been a great ambassador for women's golf," Pettersen said. "We've all looked up to her and enjoyed her time as a golfer."

Candie Kung won her third straight match for Asia, and Sarah Lee, Na Yeon Choi and Song Hee Kim also took their singles matches.

Kung beat Nikki Campbell 3 and 2, Sarah Lee edged Nicole Castrale 1-up, Choi beat Paula Creamer 3 and 2, and Song Hee Kim topped Cristie Kerr 1-up.

The teams were tied after each of the first two days, splitting the opening alternate-shot matches and Saturday best-ball matches.

"I'm really proud of my whole team because this is a such a really tight match since the first day, 3-3, then 6-6 and then nobody knows until the last group comes in," Pak said. "The most exciting ever. It made me nervous."

Asia won 15-9 last year at The Vines in Perth, Australia, for its second straight victory. The International team won the inaugural matches 16-8 in 2005 at Tenah Merah in Singapore, and Asia won 12 1/2 -11 1/2 at Tenah Merah in 2006.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved.