Tseng's 1st tour win is major feat

Taiwanese rookie tops Hjorth on 4th extra hole

Ochoa, Sorenstam 1 back

McDonald's LPGA Championship

June 09, 2008|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN REPORTER

As a relatively unknown teenager from Taiwan, Yani Tseng beat Michelle Wie and Morgan Pressel to win prestigious amateur tournaments in successive years.

It was merely a prelude to what happened yesterday at Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace.

Tseng, who joined the LPGA Tour earlier this year at age 19, won the McDonald's LPGA Championship, watching as Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam faltered down the stretch and then celebrating after Tseng beat Swedish veteran Maria Hjorth on the fourth hole of sudden death.

A 5-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th hole, coming after Hjorth had missed a 15-footer for birdie, gave Tseng her first LPGA victory as well as her first major championship. Tseng became the second-youngest player in LPGA history to win a major, behind Pressel.

"This is my dream," said Tseng, the first Taiwanese player to win a professional major golf championship. "I feel it comes very fast. I couldn't believe it."

Tseng, who sneaked up on the field with a 7-under-par 65 Saturday, shot a final round of 4-under 68 to finish regulation tied with Hjorth at 12-under 276, one stroke ahead of both Ochoa and Sorenstam.

Jee Young Lee of South Korea, who led after also shooting 65 in the third round, faded with a 78.

Hjorth, 34, had opened the door for Tseng by bogeying the par-3 17th to fall out of the lead. Hjorth had birdied the two previous holes, seeing her ball ricochet off some rocks and onto the green of the par-5 15th and then chipping in on the par-4 16th.

"Right now, I don't think it's really hit me, but I'm sure I'm going to be very, very tired pretty soon," said Hjorth, who also lost a ball in the weeds earlier in the round after hitting a spectator. "I'm very, very happy with the day. I played solid golf all day."

Asked what she knew about Tseng, who had twice finished second in LPGA events this year, Hjorth said: "I don't know about her record, what she's done before. I know she's been playing really well this year. She's been knocking on the door a few tournaments, and it seems this was her tournament, apparently."

Said Ochoa, who played with Tseng yesterday: "She is a great player. It's very impressive."

The victory by Tseng will certainly generate headlines in her homeland, where T.C. Chen is still trying to live down the infamous double-chip that cost him the 1985 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills. Tseng knows Chen, who lives about an hour away and has given her both technical advice and moral support.

"Me and T.C. Chen, both very famous," said Tseng, who laughed when she recalled watching a tape of the double-chip on an ESPN show of sport's all-time gaffes. "His technique maybe is a lot of chance to make a double-chip. But don't tell him that because I feel bad."

Tseng's victory, worth $300,000, meant that Ochoa and Sorenstam were denied a chance at enhancing their already impressive resumes.

For Ochoa, the opportunity to win her third straight major championship and keep alive her hopes of becoming the first player in history - male or female - to complete a professional Grand Slam ended when she fell back with consecutive bogeys on the par-3 12th and par-4 13th hole.

"It was a strange day," said Ochoa, who salvaged a round of 1-under-par 71 when she birdied the last two holes. "It wasn't my time."

For Sorenstam, the opportunity to win her fourth LPGA Championship, 11th major and 73rd LPGA title in what will be her final season eluded her when she lost a share of the lead after missing a 5-footer for par at 13 and then failed to make a number of birdie chances the rest of the round.

"It's disappointing when you give it your all and you don't get anything out of it," said Sorenstam, 37, who recently announced that she will retire after the season. "But overall, it's been a great week. I played very well, and I'm going to take that away from this week."

It wasn't a great week for Bulle Rock. The course was in great shape until Wednesday night's deluge. Then came Friday's announcement that the LPGA Tour would take ownership of the tournament beginning in 2010, likely ending a five-year run in Harford County.

There was also the oppressive heat over the weekend, with the temperature reaching 100.4 degrees Saturday and the heat index hitting 107 degrees yesterday. It led to the lowest Sunday attendance (19,700) since 1996 and the lowest overall attendance (81,175) since 2000.

Yet nothing spoiled Tseng's coming-out party, and the party she hoped would follow.

"I hope they give me a big party," she said. "I don't know if they will. It's sad that I can't drink."

Note -- Tournament officials did not release the figure for charitable donations for this year's tournament, but given that attendance dropped from 92,000 last year, when donations fell to $1 million - down about $500,000 from 2006 - it's likely to be down again.don.markus@baltsun.com

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