- The Washington Times - Monday, June 9, 2008

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. (AP) | Yani Tseng of Taiwan became the first rookie in 10 years to win a major, beating Maria Hjorth on the fourth hole of a playoff with a 5-foot birdie on the 18th hole to win the LPGA Championship.

Tseng, a 19-year-old with a decorated amateur career, closed with a 4-under 68 and became the second-youngest woman to win a major. Not since Se Ri Pak in the 1998 LPGA Championship had a player won a major as a rookie.

“I feel so lucky,” Tseng said.

Hjorth appeared to have fate on her side when a shot from her fairway metal bounced off the rocks in a creek, over a ledge and across the green, turning a bogey into a birdie on the 15th hole. She closed with a 71 and missed a 12-foot birdie before Tseng holed the winning putt.

Lorena Ochoa went 14 holes without a birdie, ending her hopes of a third straight major. She birdied two of the last three holes for a 71 and finished one shot out of the playoff, tied with Annika Sorenstam.

Sorenstam had a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole to get into the playoff, but she left it short and shot 71.

“It wasn’t my time,” Ochoa said, showing more emotion than she had all week. “I am not ashamed. I’m proud of my finish. Now I move on and try to win the next few tournaments.”

Equally disappointed was Sorenstam, trying to join Mickey Wright as the only four-time winners of the LPGA Championship. She gave herself so many chances, and the final putt summed up her week.

“It’s a tough time,” Sorenstam said. “I was determined today, really this whole week. I felt like I could do it.”

Tseng and Hjorth finished at 12-under.

Laura Diaz (70) was one birdie away from the lead throughout the back nine until a three-putt bogey on the 17th. She finished fifth.

Tseng missed a 10-foot birdie putt in the regulation for the win. Playing the 18th hole for the third time in an hour, Tseng’s shot out of the first cut stopped five feet behind the flag.

“I was really nervous playing in the playoff,” Tseng said. “I told myself, ‘Just like amateur, relax.’”

The sudden-death playoff essentially was match play, and Tseng again came through. When Michelle Wie was 14 at the top of her game, Tseng rallied to beat her in the 2004 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and a year later defeated Morgan Pressel in the North & South Amateur, among her 19 amateur victories around the world.

It was the second time in two years that a teenager won a major. Pressel became the youngest major champion last year, winning the Kraft Nabisco at 18.

The Ochoa-Sorenstam duel on a searing hot day at Bulle Rock never developed. Instead, five players had a share of the lead at some point in the final round, and the back nine was up for grabs to the very end.

Hjorth surged into the lead with her unlikely birdie off the rocks on the par-5 15th, chipping in from 15 feet for birdie on the next hole to lead by one. But she missed the 17th green, failing to save par with a 4-foot putt to fall into a tie with Hjorth.

Ochoa opened with a 10-foot birdie and didn’t make another one until the par-4 16th.

“I gave myself a lot of birdie chances, but I couldn’t make any putts to get momentum,” Ochoa said. “There’s nothing I can do now. I tried my best.”

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