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Annika KO'd before Round 5

Hilary Lunke and Angela Stanford watched from the tee. Kelly Robbins was in the scoring trailer, her eyes glued to the television.

No matter the viewpoint, it was an intimidating sight; Annika Sorenstam in the middle of the fairway on the par-5 18th, poised to make birdie and win the U.S. Women's Open.

"I was expecting her to have a decent shot at birdie," Lunke said. "You've always got to anticipate that.

"You're playing against the best player in the world. She's going to make birdie. And you have to match her."

What followed Sunday set up a three-way playoff for the first time in 16 years at the U.S. Women's Open.

And Sorenstam won't be there.

Sorenstam hit into the trees, into a bunker and bogeyed the 18th hole, leaving Lunke, Stanford and Robbins in an 18-hole playoff today.

The three were at 1-under 283.

Robbins birdied two of the last three holes, just missing an eagle putt on No. 18 and closing with 2-under 69.

Lunke hit a bunker shot from 107 yards and had a 15-foot birdie putt to win only to come up short and shoot 75.

The biggest surprise was Stanford, a forgotten figure until her 20-foot birdie putt curled down the ridge on the 18th and disappeared for birdie. She shot 74 and said she is thrilled to play one more day.

As for Sorenstam? She's great but not perfect.

"The fact you have the chance to win the U.S. Open coming up the 18th if you're not nervous, you're not human," Stanford said. "I'm sure she was nervous."

Sorenstam did not birdie the 502-yard closing hole in four rounds. She had only 236 yards left Sunday, but her 4-wood sailed into the trees, next to a fence surrounding the portable toilets and behind the large scoreboard.

It took 20 minutes to get relief, and her chip from a thin patch of dry grass clipped a branch and dropped in a bunker. She blasted out to 15 feet, but the par putt to remain at 1 under did not have a chance.

"Obviously, I played aggressive," said Sorenstam, who closed with 2-over 73 and finished at 284.

"It shot out to the right, and the rest is history. I'm very disappointed, but I gave it my all. I'll change my batteries. I'll be ready when I need to. But right now, I feel like being grumpy. It's going to take a while to recover from this."

It will take one more round, on a tough Witch Hollow course at Pumpkin Ridge, to determine a winner.

Today will be the first U.S. Women's Open playoff since Se Ri Pak won in 1998 and the first involving three players since Laura Davies beat Ayako Okamoto and JoAnne Carner in 1987.

Lunke had a chance to win with the final putt, 15 feet below the cup for birdie. It had the right line but came up a foot short.

Robbins, a major champion who hasn't won in more than four years, got under par for the first time all tournament with a two-putt birdie on 18. She was one of only three players to break par in the final round.

Stanford's putt was pure magic, reminiscent of Jenny Chuasiriporn holing from 45 feet in 1998 to get into the playoff with Pak.

"It was one of the coolest moments I've ever had on the golf course," Stanford said.

Aree Song, one of 14 teenagers in the event, birdied the final hole for 74 that left her alone in fifth at 285. Song, 17, of Bradenton was low amateur and earned a trip back next year.

A victory by Robbins, who won the 1995 LPGA Championship, would give her the biggest comeback in tournament history. She started the final round six strokes behind.

"I'd like to say I'm surprised," she said. "But being this kind of week and what can happen out there, I knew if I could hang around even par, that things might be okay."

Neither Stanford nor Lunke had contended in a major. Both watched Sorenstam hit great shots ahead of them and take a share of the lead.

Then they had to wait for what seemed like forever as Sorenstam got her ruling, took her drop and fell apart.

Lunke gave away her one-stroke lead quickly, making four bogeys during a five-hole stretch early in the round. An approach to 2 feet for birdie at 11 gave her a two-shot lead, then it was a matter of hanging on.

"I've always said my game was suited for a U.S. Open," Lunke said. "And when I win my first LPGA event, I think it will be a U.S. Open."

The last player to make her first LPGA victory a U.S. Women's Open was Sorenstam in 1995. She won't be around to find out if Lunke is the next.