THREEPEAT: Annika Sorenstam, with tournament host and namesake John Q. Hammons, displays her trophy on the 18th green at the Cedar Ridge Country Club as she won the John Q. Hammons Hotel Classic the third time in five years.
The John Q. Hammons Hotel Classic ended with a familiar scene on Sept. 18 as Annika Sorenstam hoisted the champion’s trophy for the third time in the five-year history of the event.
Sorenstam, who says that she is impressed with the tournament and says she will return again next year, carded rounds of 68-67-73=208 (-5) to win by one shot over 19-year-old rookie Paula Creamer, 69-71-69=209 (-4), to earn her seventh LPGA win this year and 63rd of her career. She is now a perfect five-for-five in tournaments this year when she enters the final round with the lead and is also three-for-four in title defenses this year with her lone hiccup coming at the LPGA Corning Classic where she tied for second.
Sorenstam began the round with a one-shot lead over Maria Hjorth, who was looking for her first win on Tour since 1999, and Michelle Ellis, who was looking for her first career win. Both are still looking. Hjorth bogeyed her first hole and Ellis, who was playing with Sorenstam, took a double-bogey on the opening hole.
“Obviously in Michelle’s case, she didn’t get off to the start she wanted,” said Sorenstam, who has now won the last four 54-hole tournaments that she has competed in. “ I saw Maria in front was making some mistakes, it was one of those days where you just really had to survive.”
And nobody survives better than Sorenstam.
She carded par at the first eight holes with relatively little trouble, and then she went to number nine and made a spectacular par save to maintain her lead. She went left off the tee and then her second shot rolled over the putting surface into the deep rough guarding the backside of the green and disappeared. Her chip rolled 12 feet passed the hole, and it looked like the Super Swede was going to give a shot back to the field with nine holes to play. Instead, she drilled the comebacker and maintained a three-shot lead.
It was a lead she would need, as she bogeyed two of her final three holes to win by one over Creamer, who also bogeyed two of her final three holes.
“Luckily I had a little cushion, and at the end it seemed like I needed it,” said Sorenstam. “For me, a win is a win. I thought I played excellent the first two days. It’s a tough golf course and a lot of things are shaping up at the end of year. So this meant a lot to me.”
Cedar Ridge Country Club is one of the toughest courses the LPGA visits and for the second consecutive year, less than 10 people finished under par. But Sorenstam was able to master it and increased her lead in the three categories—ADT Official Money List, Rolex Player of the Year and Vare Trophy standings—that she desperately wants to win.
“For me it’s important to play good at the end of the year,” she said. “There’s a lot of things that are at stake. Those are goals of mine and they mean a lot.”
The win added $150,000 to Sorenstam’s ever-increasing bank account and pushed her season earnings to $1,957,200. She needs only $42,800 to pass the $2 million mark in season earnings for the fifth consecutive year. That feat is even more impressive considering no other player in LPGA history has earned more than $2 million in a season.
In the last five years, Sorenstam has earned $11,501,185 in 98 events, which is $820,773 more than Karrie Webb, who is second on the career money list, has earned in the 225 events she has played in her 10 years as a member of the LPGA.
Creamer, who with two wins this year already has the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award wrapped up, put together a small rally, but was plagued with bogeys on 16 and 17. She birdied 18, but it was not enough to lift her into a playoff with Sorenstam.
“I’m a little bummed out after the finish I had,” said Creamer. “It still kind of makes the whole week not as sweet, but I had a chance to win and that’s the thing that I always have to look back on.”
“I knew I had to play good golf. She’s not going to make mistakes come Sunday. I knew she was going to play the way she always plays, and she doesn’t have to turn it on when no one is pressuring her and making birdies.”
Monday qualifier Diana D’Alessio and Hjorth tied for third at 211 (-2), while Karine Icher finished alone in fifth at 212 (-1).