Former USC Golfer Candie Kung Beats Sorenstam To Win First LPGA Tournament

April 22, 2003

LAS VEGAS -- Annika Sorenstam would have liked one more round. The way she played on the back nine, a few more holes might have been enough.

For Candie Kung, though, the Takefuji Classic ended at just the right time.

Kung bogeyed the final hole Saturday, but still won her first LPGA tournament by two shots over a charging Sorenstam and two others with a closing round of 2-under 70.

Sorenstam shot her second straight 67, a score that left her wishing the tournament was 72 holes instead of 54.

'I've always been in favor of four-day (tournaments),'' Sorenstam said. 'But I knew it was 54 holes going into the tournament.''

Kung had a three-shot lead going into the final hole, where in the first two days of the tournament she had made double bogey and bogey. This time, she three-putted but it didn't matter.

'This is great, that's all I can say about it,'' the 21-year-old said. 'It's awesome.''

Kung, who finished at 12-under, thought she might have the lead on the final hole but she wasn't sure. She avoided looking at leaderboards until she was on the 18th green.

Still, she was nervous, drinking a bottle of water a hole on the last few holes while trying to keep her mind off of what she was doing. As she walked up the 18th hole, Kung and her caddie talked about how many rooms the adjoining Las Vegas Hilton hotel might have.

'I didn't know how many shots I was leading by,'' she said. 'I thought it might be one or two. I didn't look at the leaderboard at all.''

Kung double bogeyed the hole in the first round and bogeyed her final hole after shanking a shot in the second round. But Saturday, the 4-footer she missed for par meant only that her winning margin was smaller.

Sorenstam rallied on the back nine with three straight birdies and closed with a birdie on the 18th hole. But, after being six shots out in the opening round, she never threatened to take the lead in the 54-hole event.

'I've been playing catch-up the last two rounds,'' Sorenstam said. 'I'm very pleased with the way I played the last two days. I had a chance at the end.''

It wasn't much of a chance, though, because Kung made three birdies in four holes beginning at the par-5 ninth to take a lead she never relinquished.

Sorenstam shot 67 in both her final two rounds, but ran out of holes to catch Kung. Christie Kerr and Soo-Yun Kang finished tied with her for second at 10-under-par.

Eight of the 35 tournaments on the LPGA Tour this year are 54 holes instead of 72.

Kung, who took up golf when her family moved from Taiwan to the United States in 1995, showed signs in the first two rounds that she might have trouble holding the lead.

But she played the finishing 495-yard par-5 steady, laying up on her second shot and then hitting her third over the water onto the green.

Kung missed her par putt from about 4 feet, then tapped in for the win.

'It was just Candie's day,'' Kerr said. 'She's a solid young player. She has a bright future.''

Kerr had a chance to tie for the lead on the 11th hole, but her short birdie putt missed and she played 1-over the rest of the way in for a closing 71.

Kerr said every time she thought she had an opportunity to get close, she missed the putt.

'If one of those putts goes in, it kind of changes the momentum of the entire tournament,'' she said.

Catriona Matthew, tied with Kung going into the final round, missed a 2-footer for birdie on the 11th hole that would have tied her for the lead, then missed a 3-foot par putt on the next hole to fall out of contention.

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