Juli Inkster Wins Chick-Fil-A Event

Sunday, May 5th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. (AP) _ Juli Inkster overcame an extended layoff to win the rain-plagued Chick-fil-A Charity Championship, shooting a 6-under 66 Sunday for a two-stroke victory.

Inkster returned to the course for the first time since Friday afternoon, having waited through two days of incessant rain that forced the tournament to be reduced from 54 to 36 holes.

The LPGA Hall of Famer overcame a two-shot deficit at the start of the round to earn the 27th victory of her career with a 12-under 132 total.

``I've been out here forever,'' the 41-year-old Inkster said. ``I should know how to handle it.''

The muddy course was bathed in bright sunshine at the end, and Inkster finished in style with an eagle at No. 18. She knocked her second shot to 6 feet, pumping her fist and waving her visor when the putt dropped in.

Kelly Robbins, who led by two strokes after the first round, struggled much of the day but finished birdie-birdie-eagle to take second with a 70 for the round and 134 overall.

Defending tournament champion Annika Sorenstam shot a 69 in the first round but couldn't cope with the water-logged course at Eagles Landing Country Club. She soared to a 75 _ only the second time in 20 rounds this year that she's been over par.

Sorenstam finished the 36-hole event in a tie for 59th _ her worst showing of the year by far. In her first five events, the Swede won twice, finished second twice and placed seventh.

Robbins posted a 64 Friday and, like Inkster, had to wait around for nearly 48 hours to take her next shot because of rain that forced two delays and two suspensions.

Unlike Inkster, Robbins appeared rusty, hitting plenty of errant drives and shaky putts before the strong finish gave her another runner-up finish at the Atlanta-area tournament.

``I couldn't find my swing,'' she said. ``Blame the day off? I don't know. OK, sure, I will. I thought I would play better early.''

Robbins has finished second three times at Eagles Landing.

``Another second,'' she moaned. ``Don't get me wrong, I'll take it. But I'd like to do a little better one of these times.''

This time, Robbins lost the lead with back-to-back bogeys beginning at No. 7, where she drove in the rough and missed a 12-footer to save par. At No. 8, she flubbed a chip from the right side of the green and couldn't sink the 6-footer.

For the 15th time since 1963, an LPGA event was shortened to 36 holes. Robbins endured the same fate that has befallen most pacesetters _ only five times has the 18-hole leader held on to win the abbreviated tournament.

Everyone who started the second round on Saturday returned to the course at 7:30 in the morning to finish up.

Se Ri Pak shot a 67, heading to the clubhouse with a share of the lead at 8 under. The other leaders didn't even tee off until almost three hours later.

``I had nothing to lose our there,'' said Pak, who wound up four strokes back at 136. ``I was just trying my best.''

Pak spent the rest of the day eating lunch with friends, watching TV and packing for the next tournament in Nashville, Tenn. She was knocked out of the lead for good when Inkster sank a 6-footer for birdie at No. 9.

Inkster's booming, accurate drives set up some short iron shots. She broke a tie with Grace Park by sinking another 6-foot birdie at 14.

Park struggled the rest of the way. She missed the green with her second shot at 15, chipped to 2 1/2 feet but watched the putt slide by the right side of the cup. At the par-3 16th, she yanked her drive left of the green and couldn't get up-and-down, taking another bogey and effectively ending her chances.

``Unfortunately, I made a couple of mistakes toward the end,'' Park said. ``That stunk.''

Karrie Webb, seeking her first victory of the year, also went out early in the morning. She charged into the lead with an eagle at No. 6 and a birdie at 7, pushing her score to 9 under.

But the Australian fell apart after the turn. Two straight bogeys began her slide, which culminated with a 39 on the back side, a 71 for the round and a 138 overall.