Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 6:52 p.m., Saturday, February 25, 2006

Meena Lee wins Fields Open; Wie third

By Jaymes Song
Associated Press

KAPOLEI — With the most of the fans long gone and the sun setting over O'ahu, the LPGA's Fields Open in Hawai'i came down to a battle of the Lees.

South Korea's Meena Lee won, holding off hometown favorite Michelle Wie in regulation and beating rookie Seon Hwa Lee on the third hole of a playoff Saturday.

The 24-year-old Meena Lee closed with a bogey-free 7-under 65 to match the 20-year-old Seon Hwa Lee (71) at 14-under 202 — a stroke ahead of Wie (66) — and won with a 6-foot birdie putt on the third extra hole.

Meena Lee earned $165,000. She also won the Canadian Women's Open last year.

Wie had seven birdies and a costly bogey to close with her 66 and finish third at 13-under 203. She earned $72,875 for her first paycheck in four pro starts. The 16-year-old star was disqualified from the LPGA Tour's Samsung World Championship in October in her pro debut, and missed the cut in two men's events.

"I played awesome," Wie said. "I felt I played very solid today, but unfortunately, not the way I wanted it to turn out."

Players had a third day of balmy and windless conditions, setting up the wide-open layout at Ko Olina for low scores. Afternoon clouds gave the fans a break from the sun.

Meena Lee began the day birdie-eagle and ended the day with a birdie-par-birdie.

On No. 2, she hit a 9-wood into the wind from 160 yards and the ball went straight into the cup.

"I never thought about winning because of the big gap, but after the eagle on the second hole, I knew it was going to be a great day," she said.

Seon Hwa Lee had a chance to win in regulation, missing a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 18.

The Lees both parred the first two playoff holes, Nos. 18 and 16, with Seon Hwa Lee missing a 20-foot birdie putt that would have ended it on the first extra hole.

Meena Lee holed a clutch 8-footer to save par and send it to a third playoff hole.

Mexico's Lorena Ochoa, who lost a playoff in the season-opening SBS Open last week, closed with a 70 to tie for fourth at 11 under with Nicole Castrale (69), rookie Julieta Granada (71) and Gulbis (72). Karin Sjodin (68) was another stroke back, with Cristie Kerr (69) and Lindsey Wright (70) at 9 under.

Wie moved into contention early by birdieing four of her first six holes in a front-nine 32 that left her two strokes behind.

She three-putted the par-5 13th for a bogey, missing a 4-footer for par, but rebounded with a tap-in birdie on No. 14 — also a par 5.

Wie shook her first after sinking a 12-foot left-to-right birdie putt on No. 17 that put her in a four-way tie for the lead at 13 under. But Seon Hwa Lee took the outright lead by tapping in for birdie on the 14th hole.

Wie was playing in front of a huge gallery, which was packed 10 deep to watch her first tee shot of the day and cheered every swing. She was paired with 17-year-old Morgan Pressel, the youngest player on the tour, and 49-year-old Sherri Turner, the oldest player entered in the event.

"The positive energy I received from the crowd was awesome," Wie said. "I felt like I basically knew half of the people in the gallery."

Pressel, the U.S. Amateur champion and U.S. Women's Open runner-up, was in tears after her 71, giving her a three-day total of 8-under 208. She tied for 11th with 2005 rookie of the year Paula Creamer (67), Jeong Jang (68), Angela Stanford (67), Sophie Gustafson (69), Sakura Yokomine (70), Wendy Ward (72) and Aree Song (72).

"I just didn't play well, I couldn't get any of my putts to go in," said Pressel, who finished fifth at Turtle Bay. "I really couldn't hit my drivers, irons, anything, which is really disappointing."

Pressel made the turn at 2-under 34 to put her at 9 under, but couldn't get any closer.

The teen stars were cordial to each other and chatted occasionally while walking the fairways.

"She is a nice girl," Wie said. "She played good, kind of struggled a bit at the end, but she's a very talented player. I think she'll do really well this year."

The win by Meena Lee completed a South Korean sweep of Hawai'i to start the season. Joo Mi Kim won the season-opening SBS Open last week at Turtle Bay.