Teens take over the greens

Posted: June 10, 2007

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. - A trio of teenagers are poised to make history today in the McDonald's LPGA Championship, and none of them is named Michelle Wie.

Na On Min, an unheralded 18-year-old rookie from South Korea, startled both the spectators and her fellow players yesterday at Bulle Rock by firing a 7-under-par 65 - the best round of the week - to take a 1-stroke lead after 54 holes.

"I really don't know her," Morgan Pressel said.

Min is a nonexempt player who barely made it into the tournament by way of her standing on the money list after the Corning Classic two weeks ago. Incredibly, this is her first major, and just the sixth LPGA event of her nascent career.

Min goes into today's final round at 10-under 206, 1 shot ahead of Suzann Pettersen, the 36-hole leader who had an eagle and double bogey in a round of 71 that put her at 207.

Karrie Webb, who won this tournament in 2001 at DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, also shot a 71 and was tied for third at 208 with 18-year-old Angela Park. Park, the top LPGA rookie this season, fired a bogey-free 68.

Pressel, trying to add the second leg of the Grand Slam to her victory in the Kraft Nabisco, stayed alive with a 70 and a 209 total. She is the third teen to occupy the top five.

Speaking of teens, Wie, 17, saying she hurt her injured left wrist in the rough "a couple of times" yesterday, shot the day's worst score - an 83 - and said she would wait until this morning to decide on playing her final round.

Lorena Ochoa, the world's No. 1 player who has been under the radar all week, surfaced with a 69 that left her in a tie for seventh, 5 strokes behind.

At 18 years, 10 months and 9 days, Pressel became the youngest winner of an LPGA major in March. Min can top that with a victory today; she is 18 years, 7 months and 5 days old.

Few know her, but Min certainly got everyone's attention with her 65, a round that started par-bogey and finished with eight birdies on the final 16. Her irons were so precise that none of her birdie putts was longer than 12 feet.

"I'm nervous, yeah, because this is my first major," Min said. "So I'm nervous, but I'll do my best and keep focused on each shot."

But Min said her expectations have been raised from Thursday.

"The first thing, the first two days, is make cut," she said. "Before I start today, top 10. I'm leading now, so before I start tomorrow, it will be like my goal is to win."

Park, who was born in Brazil and moved to the United States, where she enjoyed a spectacular junior career, played steadily.

"I wasn't feeling nervous out there at all today," she said. "I'm a little nervous for tomorrow, but whatever happens, I'm going to be happy either way . . . just go out there with a smile and relax and play some golf."

Still, it figures to be an arduous day. Despite her age, Pressel knows what it takes to win a major, having shot a final-round 69 in the Kraft Nabisco. Webb is seeking her eighth major title. And Pettersen, who blew a 3-stroke lead on the back nine of the Kraft Nabisco, wants to be a part of the chase again.

So it's the lack of nerves of the youths versus experience.

"Obviously, I do have the experience, and I think that experience held me in good stead today," Webb said. "The young kids, you see them doing well every week and winning and competing. I think sometimes ignorance is bliss. So we'll see which pays off."

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano

at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.

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