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Published: Sunday, 7/16/2006

Sorenstam works way into contention

BY MAUREEN FULTON AND MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Annika Sorenstam is four shots behind the leaders. Annika Sorenstam is four shots behind the leaders.
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The best women's golfer in the world is slowly creeping into contention.

Through 15 holes of the third round at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic presented by Kroger, Annika Sorenstam was 8-under, four back of the leaders.

Sorenstam made an eight-foot birdie putt on No. 15 at Highland Meadows to finish her day. She had three more birdies and a bogey in the third round with three holes to play this morning.

"It'll be another long day," Sorenstam said about the final day of play.

"This is turning out to be a long week with the weather delays.

"I think a lot of players are used to it. We've had a long stretch the last month where there's been a lot of delays."

To chase the lead, Sorenstam will have to continue her third-round trend of shooting low.

"I've got to make some birdies," Sorenstam said. "Obviously I'm happy to birdie my last. It seems like everyone's shooting low here, and obviously that's what's going to matter tomorrow."

PAK ATTACK: Se Ri Pak continued her mastery of Highland Meadows Golf Club and is well positioned to make LPGA history after putting together 22 holes of solid play yesterday.

Pak would become just the third woman in tour history to win the same tournament five times with another victory today at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic presented by Kroger.

Pak, who is tied for fourth at 11-under, won the Farr Classic four times in six years from 1998 to 2003. She won back-to-back titles here in 1998 and '99, including a victory in just the second tournament of her career.

Pak again won in Sylvania in 2001 and 2003.

Legend Mickey Wright and current superstar Annika

Sorenstam both have completed the feat. Sorenstam has done it twice, winning the Samsung World Championship and Mizuno Classic five times each. Wright won the Sea Island Open five times in the late 1950s and 60s.

Sorenstam, who is tied for eighth going into today's final round, won the Samsung event for the fifth time last year.

Pak began the third round yesterday at 6-under and birdied the second, third, fifth and eighth holes to move up to third place at the turn at 10-under. She went on to birdie the 13th to pull into a fourth-place tie with Paula Creamer at 11-under. She shot 5-under through 14 holes and still must complete three more holes today after the event was called at 8 last night.

Pak was tied for 11th at 3-under after the opening round on Thursday. She followed that by posting a 4-under on Friday before rain ended her second round early. Pak finished the last seven holes early yesterday, posting another 3-under 68. She then embarked on her solid third round.

Overall, Pak has 15 birdies and just two bogeys and one double bogey.

Pak, who was unavailable for an interview yesterday, had her best round ever at the Farr when she carded a 61 in 1998 and has won nearly a million dollars here.

The 28-year-old Pak has three other top-10 finishes at Highland Meadows. The South Korean resides in Orlando, Fla., and has earned just over $8 million in her career.

Pak turned pro in 1998 and has 22 career victories, including four majors. But Pak's last tournament win came in 2004.

PHEW: Rookie Julieta Granada's birdie putt on No. 18 to finish her second round and put her at 1-over for the tournament was cause for celebration.

Granada pumped her fist as she holed the putt to ensure she would play the rest of yesterday and today. Granada has now made the cut in nine straight tournaments.

"I needed that to make sure I made the cut, so I was pretty excited," Granada said. "It's nice to do that whenever you need to."

EAGLE EYE: During her second round yesterday, Meg Mallon eagled the par-5, 513-yard 17th hole. From 85 yards out, she hit a gap wedge.

"It landed about a foot short of the hole and went right down the pipe," Mallon said.

Mallon has made eagle on that hole before, two years ago when she won the Farr Classic.

"I guess that's good luck for me," Mallon said. "That's a good hole for me."

In the third round, Nina Reis made an eagle on No. 18, a 532-yard par-5.

HART WARMING: In her first 11 LPGA events this season, Marcy Hart missed five cuts and posted a single top-20 performance. In her two tournaments just prior to playing in the Farr Classic, she finished third and ninth.

"I missed two straight cuts before we played in Rochester and I decided I just had to stop being so hard on myself," she said. "I had to realize that you can't be perfect, that things happen and that I couldn't keep letting them get me down."

She finished tied for third at the Wegmans Classic in Rochester, earning a career-best check for $106,791, and padded that with $25,000 for advancing to the third round of the Women's World Match Play Championship.

"Those weeks made my life a lot easier," she said. "Finally, we're at the halfway point of a season and I'm not worrying about having to go back to [tour qualifying] school to keep my playing card. I can just relax and play golf."

The top 90 players on the money list retain exempt status. Hart is currently No. 40, and should move up a tad upon today's conclusion of the Farr Classic. She is currently at 5-under through 16 holes of play in the third round, which will be concluded this morning.

HEAT DIDN'T HELP: Lise-

lotte Neumann, the 40-year-old veteran of 19 LPGA seasons, was asked if she was surprised to hear that 16-year-old Michelle Wie had been forced to withdraw from the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic after nine holes of the second round because of heat exhaustion.

"I think maybe she's just exhausted overall," Neumann said. "It's not just golf. It's probably dealing with everything that's thrown at her.

"I'm just guessing, mind you, but she's probably just exhausted, period. And the heat didn't help."



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