As Annika Sorenstam made the turn and walked toward the 10th tee yesterday, a young boy asked if he could have her golf ball.
"No, I have more to play," Sorenstam responded with a smirk.
Despite starting the day six shots off the pace, Sorenstam attacked that back nine like she was among the leaders. She rallied to 6-under before a three-putt on 18 left her at 5-under and ended her streak of three straight LPGA championships.
"I knew I had to go low today," said Sorenstam, who had her best round of the weekend with a 68 and tied for ninth place. "I hit a lot of good, quality shots today, gave myself some chances ... and just really put myself in a good position. So, you know, it's just a bummer to finish where I did."
Sorenstam had a modest following when she reached the ninth green - as Michelle Wie was just beginning her final round on the nearby first hole - but the gallery grew as Sorenstam continually made clutch putts on a run of four straight birdies.
After reaching the green in two shots on the 493-yard, par-5 15th, Sorenstam birdied to reach 6-under, at which point she admitted beginning to feel like she was back in contention.
But Sorenstam was too aggressive on her first putt at 18, winding up with a tough par attempt she couldn't convert. She put her hand on top of her head in frustration, saying afterward that if not for that bogey she "would have been jumping with joy."
"I saw it was quick, but standing over there you have to make 7 [under], you know, and sometimes things don't compute," Sorenstam said. "I just rammed it way too hard and I was thinking, 'Wow, you saw how fast it was, what are you doing?' "
Sorenstam could have pulled within one shot if not for a two-stroke penalty she earned Saturday for replacing a divot on the second hole. But Sorenstam can tell she's not the same player that shot 11-under to win the championship here a year ago.
"I'm probably playing 75 percent of what I'm capable," she said. "So, I'm just looking for those other 25 percent. I must have misplaced it somewhere."
Sorenstam said she'll take two weeks off to prepare for the U.S. Women's Open, which begins June 29 in Newport, R.I.
The 18th hole became a wet way to narrow down the contenders late yesterday, as Cristie Kerr and Shi Hyun Ahn both fell to 6-under with approach shots going in the water around the green.
Ahn was at 8-under after birdieing 16, but bogeyed the final two holes. Kerr birdied 17 to reach 7-under before misjudging her approach on 18.
"We couldn't feel how much the wind was helping," Kerr said. "And on top of that, I hit it about as solid as I could hit it, which is kind of inexcusable when you've got a hundred feet of green or more from the front of the green to the pin."
As if her flashy dress and improving play weren't enough, 22-year-old Christina Kim is furthering her popularity on tour with what has somewhat become a new calling card.
Kim raced atop the final green to douse champion Se Ri Pak with a bottle of champagne, which she said she's done three or four times this year to toast the victor.
"It seemed like a good way to end the tournament," said Kim, who idolized Pak as a young golfer. "You've got to make it exciting. If it's not champagne, it's a bucket of ice water."