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Led by Wie, Americans shine

Six U.S. players move into the final 16 at the Sybase Match Play Championship

By Steve Adamek
The Record (Hackensack N.J.)

LAST UPDATED: 10:29 p.m. HST, Aug 5, 2011

GLADSTONE, N.J. » Six cheers for the red, white and blue.

On an LPGA Tour perceived to lack a strong American presence, even though U.S. players own three of the past four major titles, the Sybase Match Play Championship has one heading into its final two days.

Six Americans, including four of the five ranked in the world’s top 15, advanced to today’s third round at Hamilton Farm Golf Club, including No. 10 Michelle Wie, who overcame a two-hole deficit with six to play to beat Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist on their second sudden-death hole.

Conversely, Cristie Kerr, the top-ranked American at No. 4 and last year’s LPGA Championship winner, needed just 12 holes to trounce Spanish rookie Belen Mozo, 7 and 6.

Paula Creamer, 12th in the world and last year’s U.S. Open winner, won the day’s showcase match with a birdie on No. 18 against Australian Hall of Famer Karrie Webb.

No. 14 Stacy Lewis, this year’s Kraft Nabisco champion, ousted China’s Shanshan Feng, 3 and 2.

Also winning: last year’s runner-up Angela Stanford, 5 and 4, over fellow American Wendy Ward, and Brittany Lang, 2 and 1, over South Korea’s I.K. Kim.

Only Paige Mackenzie’s 1-up loss to Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson (who plays Wie today) and a 3-and-2 loss by American Jenny Suh, the field’s bottom seed, to the world’s top-ranked player, Yani Tseng, prevented the U.S. from grabbing half the sweet 16 spots.

“It’s awesome,” said Wie, the former Honolulu resident who birdied the 14th and 15th holes to even her match, then two-putted for par on the second playoff hole before Nordqvist missed an 8-footer for par. “It’s great.”

Especially in the context of the perception that the tour is dominated by Asian-born players, who own eight of the top 13 spots in the world rankings.

Yesterday, four South Koreans advanced (Inbee Park, Kyeong Eun Bae, Meena Lee and top-seed Na Yeon Choi, Bae and Lee against fellow Koreans). Taiwan’s Tseng and Japan’s Ai Miyazato, ranked sixth in the world, also moved on.

But Wie called the Americans’ play yesterday “kind of funny” because she and the other 15 highest-ranked Americans (minus Creamer) played Monday at legendary Pine Valley Golf Club in Clementon. There, they conducted what she called a “sweet 16 practice session” in advance of this year’s Solheim Cup, Sept. 23-25 in Ireland.

Kerr (who plays Bae today) might have derived some mojo out of that to trounce Mozo after ousting American Amanda Blumenherst, a former college player of the year, Thursday, 3 and 2.

She won six straight front-nine holes yesterday and seven of eight after winning No. 10 before closing out her match two holes later.

“I think you do,” Kerr said when asked if she felt sorry for her opponent. “But it’s my job, it’s my career, it’s what I do. ... It’s business.”

Creamer, however, faced a far tougher test in seven-time major champion Webb, who missed several short hole-winning putts, as did Creamer in a match the American called “kind of a battle of who’s going to make it first.”

Before Creamer’s match-winning putt, though, Webb missed a 12-footer for birdie. Then, as Creamer (who plays Lang today) stood over a 5-foot downhill slider for the victory, she said she told herself, “This is why you play the game, for these moments right here.’ “


Wie didn’t even hit the hole on a downhill, 5-foot slider of her own that would have closed out her match on the final regulation hole.

But otherwise she said she “kind of just grinded it out” to survive and advance, as Creamer said she did on a day when neither rain nor storms nor an often-gloomy sky kept an American band of women from six more rounds this morning.

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