Can Annika Sorenstam hang on?
Can the world's No. 1 player manage to keep her third-round lead and win Safeway PING for the second time in three years?
The answer anywhere else would be “no problem” for Sorenstam. But after what happened during the final round of last year's 72-hole tournament, you just never know.
At this time last year, Sorenstam was firing a final round of 4-over-par 76 at the Moon Valley Country Club and losing in a playoff to Australian Rachel Teske. It was a hiccup in what was an extraordinary year for the Swede.
Sorenstam says she will play today's final round only with positive thoughts and that means blocking out last year's disaster.
In 2002, she had a four-shot advantage heading into the final 18 holes in Phoenix and blew the lead.
Today, she owns a two-stroke lead over Patricia Meunier-Lebouc, and Sorenstam is three shots clear of Karrie Webb, Se Ri Pak and Grace Park.
Sorenstam, the co-leader after two rounds, had a 7-under- 65 on Saturday that included nine birdies and two rare bogeys. She shot 67 on Thursday and 66 on Friday.
“My scores are going in the right direction,” Sorenstam said. “I feel more comfortable every day.”
Park, a graduate of Horizon High School in Scottsdale school district, and Meunier-Lebouc had 67s on Saturday, and Webb and Pak each 68. No other golfer is within five shots of the lead. Teske is at 4-under 212 and poses no real threat to Sorenstam. who is playing in her first tournament of the season.
It is an international field atop the leader board with eight countries represented by 11 players.
The final twosome of the day (Sorenstam and Meunier-Lebouc) tees off No. 1 at 12:50 p.m. today.
Chasing the leader is the very best the LPGA has to offer as challengers to Sorenstam. She didn't get tests a whole lot last year when she won 11 times.
She'll get a different kind of challenge a few weeks from now when she plays in the PGA Tour's Colonial at Fort Worth, Texas.
To catch Sorenstam and win today, with the course and the weather perfect, Webb says scores will have to be very low. And that can happen.
“There's a lot of good players at the top of the leader board that can shoot really low,” Webb said. “Scores were great today (Saturday). There's no rough out there at all. We used to be scared of missing the fairways in certain areas.”
Nobody knows about low scores at Moon Valley more than Sorenstam, who two years ago produced a 59 on the 6,459-yard course. She birdied three of her first four holes Saturday and took the lead for her own for the last time when she birdied the 15th hole.
In continuing the theme of low scores, Park says she will be in attack mode from the first shot today as she tries to make up four shots on Sorenstam.
“I'm going to be very aggressive on every hole and every shot,” Park said.
Laura Diaz had a front-nine 31 on Saturday, which included eagles on the fourth and eighth holes.
The fourth hole is a 511-yard par 5 and the eighth a 476-yard par 5. Diaz had her best round of the season at 6-under-par 66.
It's not the language barrier that France's Lebouc has to deal with on the LPGA Tour.
It's the measurement barrier. Meunier-Lebouc, tied for second heading into today's final round, is trying to convert meters to yards on the course.
“I'm working on my yards,” Meunier-Lebouc said. “It's not very easy to change. It's a challenge. My caddie is very happy.''
For whatever reason, scores during the first two weeks of the LPGA Tour have gone ridiculously low.
Last year's Safeway PING winner, Teske, finished the 72-hole event at 7-under-par 281.
After three rounds, Sorenstam is at 18-under par.
Diaz won the 2002 event in Tucson with a total score of 270.
Wendy Doolan won that tournament last week with a 259 score.
“We're just good,'' Park said.