Rookie Yani Tseng birdied the fourth playoff hole to defeat Maria Hjorth and win the McDonald’s LPGA Championship. Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam finished tied for third at -11, one shot out of the playoff. Laura Diaz was fifth at -10.
It was a wild day in the heat at Bulle Rock. Tseng herself got off to a hot start with birdies on three of the first five holes to climb within one shot of the lead. Jee Young Lee stumbled out of the gate, allowing Hjorth and then Sorenstam to assume the front-nine lead. At 7, Maria birdied to tie for the lead and at 8, Tseng birdied to make it a three-way tie. Ochoa had birdied the first hole to briefly tie for the lead but couldn’t find another one going out. Hjorth opened the back nine with birdie at 10 to reach -13. Diaz moved into the picture at -11 with a birdie at 11. Ochoa missed an eight-footer for par at 12 to fall to -10 and three behind. The leaderboard at this point had Hjorth at -13, Sorenstam and Tseng at -12, Diaz and Lee at -11.
Hole 13 was straight out of the Twilight Zone. Ochoa bogeyed her second in a row when she missed again from eight feet. Tseng missed the fairway far to the right and wound up taking bogey. Diaz managed par, which wound up being one heck of a positive thing. Hjorth drove left, striking a spectator and the ball ricocheted into the very long weeds where it could not be found. Mimi had to go back and re-tee. Jelly also drove right, hacked it about 20 feet, then punched it out toward the fairway where it inexplicably hit another spectator! What that guy was doing there, I’ll never know – maybe when I’m clipping highlights, I’ll figure that out! Both took double-bogey and Annika bogeyed when she somehow missed her three-footer for par. Wow. After all that, we had a four-way tie for the lead (Tseng, Hjorth, Sorenstam and Diaz) at -11 with Ochoa and Lee at -9.
Tseng drilled one home from nine feet at 14 to take the lead for herself. At 15, she and Diaz drove into the left rough so they were forced to pitch out while Ochoa fired her second to the green. Lorena’s eagle try came up five feet short and when she missed her birdie try, the Slam looked to be history. Tseng and Diaz rolled in three- and five-footers to save par. Sorenstam found the left rough so she punched out ala Yani and Laura and scrambled to save her par. Hjorth went for the green in two and either Rod Serling or a Maryland terrapin caused her ball to carom away from the creek all the way across to the left fringe of the green. Maria chipped up close and tapped in for birdie to tie for the lead. Jelly triple-bogeyed here to knock herself out of the proceedings – her struggles were never shown, for some reason.
Ochoa nearly drove the 16th green and struck the pin as she chipped up. Had it only fallen… Hjorth missed the green left from 100 yards, then chipped from the first cut and rolled it in to reach -13 and take the lead again. Sorenstam’s 18-footer for birdie stopped an inch from the hole. At 17 Diaz knocked herself out when she ran her birdie attempt six feet by and couldn’t make the comebacker. This par miss wasn’t shown either and at 18 Brian Hammonds thought Laura was putting to tie for the lead when she was actually two shots behind. Bad work there, dudes. Anyway, Lorena and Yani both missed birdie at 17 from 15 feet. Annika’s 30-footer slid by barely left. Mimi had just missed the bunker and chipped up from the rough to 3.5 feet, but missed the par putt and went to 18 tied with Tseng. Yani had six feet at 18 to break the tie but she missed it right. Ochoa dropped in a birdie to finish only one shot short. Sorenstam had 18 feet to join the playoff but missed it on the low side. Hjorth ran her 12-footer three feet past and made the comebacker.
They replayed 18 for the first playoff hole. Tseng hit the cart path right with her drive and made a heroic recovery to the back left fringe. Maria played hers to within three feet of Yani’s ball. Up against the collar, Tseng chipped to two feet, Hjorth putted to a foot and they both tapped in. At 16 for Hole #2, both players missed their birdies right (Yani from 25 ft, Mimi from 15). At 17, Hjorth rolled her 30-footer three feet beyond the hole while Tseng pulled her 15-footer to the left. Maria saved her par so they went to play 18 for the third time today.
Tseng drove right again but it kicked back into the first cut. Hjorth played 3-wood right down the middle. Yani roped one to within six feet of the hole. Maria played a good approach to the back edge about 15 feet away. Her birdie attempt missed right and Tseng rolled hers dead center for the victory.
Yani becomes the second rookie to win in 2008, joining Louise Friberg, and becomes the first Taiwanese player to win a major. She carries a French-fry club-head cover so it seems appropriate that she won this event! Tseng also becomes the second youngest player to win a major, at 19 years and four months. The Senorita Slam (as well as the Grand Slam) discussion will have to go on the backburner for a while but you have to give Ochoa a lot of credit for continuing to fire away, even at 18 when she had virtually no chance left. She seemed a little emotional about it when she was interviewed afterwards.
It’s getting a little late so I’ll get the highlights out in the morning.