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 Pak Se Ri in the 1998 McDonald’s LPGA Championship had a player won a major as a rookie.
““This is my dream,” Tseng said. “Its happened so fast. I feel lucky.”
“Before I just heard Lorena, Lorena,” Tseng told reporters about the cheers coming from the galleries. “And today it’s Yani, Yani. So it’s very exciting.”
Tseng got off to a slow start despite soft conditions caused by heavy rain early in the week. She opened with 73 and shot two-under 70 in the second round before closing with 65-68.
“I was very disappointed,” she said about the early rounds. “I just tried too hard. I tried to make everything perfect.”
“I just stay relaxed,” she said about her adjustment. “The coach tells me just relax, play your game, don’t try too hard. So today I really just enjoyed the golf.”
Tseng said she hoped there would be a celebration.
“I hope they give me a big party,” she said. “But it’s sad that I can’t drink. I can’t have a beer when I have a party.”
The drinking age in Maryland is 21.
The victory also ensured Tseng became the first Taiwanese golfer to win a major.
Chen Tze-chung nearly earned that distinction at the 1985 men’s US Open before he double-hit a chip shot and was penalized on his way to a quadruple-bogey in the final round. He finished one shot behind winner Andy North.
Tseng said she was friendly with Chen, who gave her advice when they met at a practice facility.
The LPGA Championship winner said she only recently learned about Chen’s mishap, when she saw highlights on television.
“Last week I just saw the missed double chip,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. That’s not really a hard shot.”
“After I watched I told my coach ... ‘Oh, I know maybe why he chipped a double chip. His technique maybe gives a lot of chance to make a double chip.’”
“But don’t tell him that, because I feel bad,” she said.
Hjorth appeared to have fate on her side when 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, along 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 McDonald’s 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 276.
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.