Asia increases lead in Lexus Cup

Se Ri Pak and In-Kyung Kim held off Annika Sorenstam and Catriona Matthew in the final best-ball match on Saturday.

updated: December 09, 2007 13:56 IST
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Se Ri Pak and In-Kyung Kim held off Annika Sorenstam and Catriona Matthew in the final best-ball match on Saturday to give Asia a seven-point lead over the International team in the Lexus Cup.

After sweeping the opening alternate-shot session Friday at The Vines Resort and Country Club course, Asia took 3 1/2 of six points in best-ball play to take the big lead into the 11 singles matches Sunday.

"Everybody is excited," Pak said. "Basically, we have had a good two days and we feel great about our chances to retain the cup."

The singles matches were reduced from 12 to 11 after Norwegian star Suzann Pettersen was forced to withdraw during the round after aggravating a back injury.

Asia captain Pak, bothered by shoulder pain throughout the weekend, also will sit out on Sunday, with Pak and International captain Sorenstam agreeing to halve the match.

"I had a secret meeting with Se Ri and she showed a lot of class and decided to tie that match," Sorenstam said.

With Pak out of the lineup, Sorenstam will face Candie Kung in the opening match.

"My shoulder is hurting and this is the understanding that we came to," Pak said. "It's not going to be easy to not be playing with my team for the first time ever. I'm just going to be out there to support them."

With the halved singles match officially leaving the score 10-3 once play begins Sunday, Asia needs only two points to retain the cup and the International team needs 9 1/2 to win.

"We are going to come out firing. We have nothing to lose," Morgan Pressel said. "Hopefully, we can get a lot of birdies."

Asia is trying to successfully defend its title after beating the International team 12 1/2-11 1/2 last year at Tanah Merah in Singapore.

The International team won the inaugural matches 16-8 in 2005, also at Tanah Merah.

Natalie Gulbis played the final seven holes alone after partner Pettersen withdrew. The American pulled within one of Jee Young Lee and Seon Hwa Lee with a birdie on 15 before finally falling when the South Koreans birdied the 18th for a 2-up decision.

"I was thinking, 'I've got the chance to make history here. One international player against two Team Asia players,'" Gulbis said, joking.

"No, I was worrying about Suzann. Suzann is a really, really tough player, and she had been in pain all day from yesterday's driving range session.

"I was just supporting her and encouraging her to take care of herself. But for a player like Suzann to withdraw due to pain, you know something is going wrong. I just wanted to play well for Suzann, for my team, for Annika."

The victory was the Lees' second straight over the International duo.

Amy Hung and Ji Yai Shin also topped their International opponents for the second consecutive round, beating Brittany Lincicome and Maria Hjorth 2 and 1.

Angela Park and Nikki Campbell gave the International team its first point, beating Jeong Jang and Shi Hyun Ahn 3 and 2 in the opening match.

"Angela played very well, so I just came along for the ride," said Campbell, the lone Australian in the International lineup.

Cristie Kerr and Nicole Castrale also earned a full point for the International side with a 3-and-2 victory over Sarah Lee and Meena Lee.

"I didn't have my game in the best of sorts today, but that's what best ball is all about," said Kerr, the U.S. Women's Open winner. "Nicole carried me for a bit and I helped out on a couple of holes. She played terrifically."

Pressel and Stacy Prammanasudh halved with Kung and Ayako Uehara.

"It was a very tough match and it was very exciting," Uehara said.

Kung made a par putt on 18 to match Pressel and Prammanasudh.

"I was just thinking about making the putt," Kung said. "Ayako had been making a lot of putts today, so I thought I would do something for the girls and I did it."

Sorenstam wasn't about to concede defeat.

"We have to play very hard, obviously," the Swedish star said. "It's going to be quite the comeback, but I can see it and we're going to do it."