Tseng leads from start to finish to claim a slender victory

Yani Tseng

Back in April 2009, when Yani Tseng decided to buy Annika Sorenstam’s former home on the 16th fairway at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, near Orlando in Florida, she envisaged only one minor problem – the Swede’s trophy room was far too large for her own more meagre haul of prizes.

The following month, the-then 20 year-old Taiwanese golfer started to rectify the situation when she captured the LPGA Corning Classic to add to the McDonald’s LPGA title she had won the year before. Earlier this year, she continued the process, claiming her second Major title at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, and now she has consigned such concerns well and truly into the past with a battling one shot victory over the luckless Australian, Katherine Hull, at the 2010 Ricoh Women’s British Open, staged over the majestic links at The Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport.

Tseng, who also share’s Sorenstam’s coach, Pia Nilsson, and who has sought the Swede’s personal advice on how to become the world’s No. 1 golfer, started the final round with a four shot lead over Hull and a five ahead of the Korean, In-Kyung Kim. It appeared to be enough when both leading protagonists went out in level par 35 but then the leader dropped a shot at the 360-yard par-4 10th and Hull produced birdies at both the 11th and the 13th.

In the end, just as the Taiwanese golfer had predicted the night before, it all came down to the closing stretch where Hull lipped out for a birdie on the par-5 17th and then failed to get up-and-down from the back of 72nd green to finish with a brave 70 for a 10 under par total of 278. Meanwhile, Tseng drove into the left-hand bunker down the last, missed the green in three, putted on and then holed from five feet for a par and a 73 that gave her a slender one stroke victory on 11-under par 277.

The victory brought Tseng a cheque for £260,000 ($408,714), to add to the $3,725,545 she has already banked in her first three full seasons competing on the LPGA Tour. It makes her the youngest player ever to win three women’s Major titles and means that, in the future, Lu Liang Huan, or Mr Lu as he is known to his legion of friends, the man with the Pork Pie hat who finished second behind Lee Trevino at the 1971 Open Championship, will no longer be considered the most famous Taiwanese golfer ever to tread the historic turf at Birkdale.

Perhaps of even more lasting significance, at least as far as the golfing statisticians are concerned, the victory confirms Tseng has now won three Majors long before Sorenstam, her childhood hero, won her first at the relatively advanced age of 24. No mean feat when one considers the Swede went on to win 10 before retiring prematurely to start a family.

“I can’t really believe I have won this Championship and now have three Major titles to my name,” said Tseng. “Katherine played awesome today. She really pushed me a lot and made the last the last four holes really difficult for me.”

Tseng then said she had received a text message from Sorenstam the night before wishing her the best of luck for the final round “It was great. She’s my idol, she’s helped me a lot so it’s great she took the time to do it.

“She told me she was really happy to see me on top and said that was where I belonged. She told me to trust my ability and to relax and enjoy it. I put a few of her comments into my yardage book and I read them as I went round.”

Hull admitted she felt a mixture of pride and pain after coming up just short in her quest to win a first Major title.

“I am delighted with the way I played this week, although also a little sad I didn’t quite make it,” said Hull, whose sole victory on the LPGA Tour came back at the 2008 CN Canadian Women’s Open, where the Australian started the final round six shots behind Tseng but overhauled the Taiwanese golfer coming down the stretch.

“Yani played great,” she added, “and I couldn’t do quite enough to catch her. I was really happy with my ball striking the entire week. I guess I just need to go home and work a little harder on my short game.”

The battle for the other places concluded with Korean, Na Yeon Choi, closing with a fine four under par 68 to share third place with compatriot, In-Kyung Kim, on seven under par 281.

America’s Cristie Kerr, winner of this year’s PGA Championship fired a final round 70 to share fifth place with two other Koreans Amy Yang and Hee Kyung Seo, while another Korean, Inbee Park, made it four top-10 finishes out of four in this year’s Majors by carded a fabulous final round of 66 to share ninth place with Japanese duo, Ai Miyazato and Momoko Ueda, Britanny Lincicome as well as another American, Christina Kim, who was claiming her second consecutive top-10 finish in this Championship after finishing in a share of third place 12 months ago at nearby Royal Lytham & St Annes.

Caroline Hedwall became the second Swede in three years to win the Smyth Salver, awarded to the leading amateur who plays all four rounds, when she closed with a fine two under par 70 for a three over par aggregate of 291.

The current European No. 1 amateur succeeds an illustrious group of former Smyth Salver winners that includes Rebecca Hudson (2001), Michelle Wie (2005), Amy Yang (2006), Melissa Reid (2007) and Hedwall’s compatriot Anna Nordqvist at Sunningdale in 2008. No amateur made the cut at last year’s Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

Meanwhile, the Championship will also lead to a huge boost to the Plant a Tree in Africa campaign. Prior to the start of the Championship, Ricoh, the title sponsor of the Women’s British Open, pledged to plant 5 trees for every birdie scored, 10 trees for each eagle and 1,000 trees for an albatross and the combined total came to a massive 6,840 trees.

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