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Tour turns to playoffs next season for drama


Seeking a climax to its season and following the lead of NASCAR, the LPGA Tour will adopt a season-long point system, bring the 32 best together in November 2006 and pay a record $1 million to the survivor of what will be dubbed the "Playoffs at the ADT."

"Major League Baseball has the World Series and the drama that leads up to it," LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw said. "The NFL has the Super Bowl. NASCAR now has its revised points chase for the championship. Now, the LPGA has the LPGA playoffs."

Votaw said that many of the details of the format have to be ironed out, including how many women will play on Sunday in a stroke-play event.

Beginning with the 2006 season, major winners will automatically qualify for the event at the Trump International in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The remainder of the field will include players who distinguish themselves in each half of the season and two wild-card selections, leading to what Votaw hopes will be "an exciting and entertaining capstone to the LPGA season."

Votaw also discussed the "These Girls Rock" campaign that will kick off this week to promote the tour. It will feature several players but will highlight Annika Sorenstam, who was followed by two dozen hearty fans yesterday afternoon during the pro-am.

On the 15th tee, Sorenstam's caddie handed a bottle of cold water to spectator Patty Hutsell, who is 6 1/2 months pregnant with her first child. "It's going to be a girl," Hutsell said, "and I hope she plays golf."

One group behind, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. hit a 5-wood approach from 195 yards off a sidehill lie on No. 13 that was pin-high but a few paces in the rough. After pro Wendy Ward gave a tip on how to play the delicate chip, Kendel Ehrlich saved par for the amateurs with a 12-foot putt.

Course gets longer

Monday's thunderstorms added even more length to Bulle Rock.

"My caddie was here over a week ago and said it was very dry and very bouncy," said Sorenstam. "Here I'm on the first tee and I said, 'Oh, really?' and then my drive rolled about three feet. He kind of had a game plan for me and it was totally different because of all the rain."

Cristie Kerr concurred.

"I think this is 6,500 [actually 6,486] and it was playing closer to 6,700, 6,800 out there," Kerr said. "It being soft and playing longer, it's going to be a tough week."

Sun staff writer Paul McMullen contributed to this article.

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