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Sunday December 17, 2006

Asia fends off Sorenstam's Internationals' charge to win Lexus Cup


SINGAPORE (AP): World No. 17 Seon-hwa Lee held off ADT Championship winner and fellow 20-year-old Julieta Granada to give Asia a 12 1/2 to 11 1/2 victory over Annika Sorenstam's International team at the Lexus Cup women's team golf tournament Sunday. 

Lee had two putts for the win at the par-four 17th to avenge Asia's humiliating loss in 2005. She duly obliged, sending her first to within inches for a tearful Granada to concede as her teammates cheered on. 

"It was a very difficult putt. There were a lot of people watching me,'' said Seon-hwa Lee, through a translator. "I didn't want to make a mistake.'' 

Asia's win at the 6,051-meter (6,620-yard) par-72 Tanah Merah Country Club Garden course in Singapore was worth US$50,000 (euro38,150) to each team member while the losers received US$30,000 (euro22,890). 

Last year, the International team won the inaugural event 16-8. 

"I'm so happy. Seon-hwa, what a finish!'' exclaimed Asia's playing captain Grace Park. "I was shaking so much, I've never been so nervous.'' 

Ahead 7-5 after winning four of the six best-ball matches Saturday, Asia needed 5 1/2 of 12 points to wrest the Lexus Cup away from Team International. On a weather-delayed final day, it went right down the order to singles matches 11 and 12 for the outcome. 

World No. 1 Annika Sorenstam gave the Internationals their first point with an easy win over 99th-ranked Park in a duel of playing captains. 

Park bogeyed the first, then drove into the water on the 2nd. By the fifth, she was already three down. 

"Anytime you play the No. 1, it's tough,'' South Korea's Park said. "It was tough out there ... raining the whole day,'' she said.  

Their match ended on the 15th hole, when Sorenstam put her 134-yard (122.5 meters) approach within birdie range. 

The South Korean also lost to Sorenstam 2 and 1 in the inaugural Lexus Cup last year.  

Her tournament record now stands at only two wins from six matches in two editions. 

In the second match, three-time LPGA Tour winner Candie Kung of Taiwan battled American Paula Creamer, 20, right down to the par-four 427 (390-meter) 18th in a contest that featured three lead changes and three ties. 

Creamer's five-iron second shot was pure, and landed about 10 feet from the hole. Kung put hers right of the flag _ and off the green. 

Kung had to nail her fifth shot _ a 7-foot (2.13 meters) breaking putt to halve. She didn't. 

"It was a roller-coaster ride out there,'' said Creamer, the youngest and fastest to reach US$1 million in career earnings. "It was unfortunate she (Kung) missed that putt ... (but) I'm glad I won.'' 

The only other match to go to the final hole was South Korea's Meena Lee against Angela Stanford of the United States. It was halved. 

Three other South Koreans _ Jee-young Lee, Young Kim, Hee-won Han _ and Japan's Sakura Yokomine also won matches for Asia in the closing session that was delayed twice because of lightning. 

There are nine South Koreans in Asia's squad of 12. 

LPGA Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak lost 3 and 2 to World Matchplay champion Brittany Lincicome in the final pairing that finished on the 16th hole. 

Lincicome's win meant both teams were tied with only Seon-hwa Lee and Granada out on course a hole ahead. 

Up a shot going into the 16th, Seon-hwa stuck her 90-yard (82-meter) approach within inches to take a two-up lead to the next hole over Granada, fourth on the money list in 2006. 

Knowing all she had to do was match Granada's par on the 17th, Seon-hwa Lee put her second shot about 30 feet (10-meters), pin-high, from the hole. Her putt rolled gently to settle a finger's length from going in. 

Natalie Gulbis, Creamer, Lincicome, Sherri Steinhauer and Stacy Prammanasudh were the other full pointers for the International team. 

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