Paraguayan rookie Julieta Granada captured a women's golf record US$1 million prize, firing a four-under-par 68 to win the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship on Sunday.
Two days past her 20th birthday, Granada defeated LPGA Player of the Year Lorena Ochoa by two strokes, eclipsing her previous winnings of US$633,586 by taking the one-day showdown for the biggest prize in women's golf history.
"This is just unbelievable. I'm so excited," Granada said. "It went by so fast. I was just trying to concentrate on my shots. I knew it would be a tough field."
The unique US$1.5 million event featured a starting field of 32 that was cut to 16 after Friday and halved again after 54 holes. But using the usual 72-hole format, Granada would have had the lowest score among the last eight.
Second place paid Ochoa only US$100,000, but it was enough to clinch the season money crown because the only woman who could catch her, Australian Karrie Webb, settled for third place on 71 to win only US$20,000.
"This was a fantastic year. I learned a lot," Ochoa said. "It's going to be a big challenge to be better next year but I want to do it."
Ochoa captured the season money title with US$2.59 million and Webb was second with US$2.09 million. But both squandered their title chances with bogeys at the 17th after finding the water off the tee.
"I thought I did nothing wrong," Ochoa said. "It was just hanging there in the wind and just short. It was a mistake."
Japan's Ai Miyazato, South Koreans Chung Il-mi and Kim Mi-hyun and US player Natalie Gulbis finished at level par 72. Paula Creamer of the US was last on 75.
Granada, whose mother Rosa is her caddie, became the first golfer to win her first LPGA title at the Tour Championship, overcoming early jitters to jump from 19th to fourth on the final season money list with US$1.633 million.
"This morning I was really nervous. I was hitting it bad," Granada said.
Granada grabbed the lead with 12-foot birdie putts at the sixth and 10th holes, then kept it with a 20-foot par at the 11th and added a crucial 10-foot birdie putt at the 16th before two concluding pars.