HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. - With any luck, yesterday's final round of the McDonald's LPGA Championship would have come down to a battle between Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam.
It did not. Faced with an opportunity to demonstrate why they are the No. 1 and No. 2 players in women's golf, neither Ochoa nor Sorenstam could do better than a 1-under 71, leaving them both at 11 under, tied for third, and frustrated on a steamy-hot Sunday at Bulle Rock.
Victory in the season's second major of the year went to a 19-year-old rookie from Taiwan, Yani Tseng, who sank a five-foot birdie putt on the fourth playoff hole against Maria Hjorth of Sweden.
The win, Tseng's first on the LPGA Tour, made her the second-youngest woman to win a major, after Morgan Pressel, who won last year's Kraft Nabisco at age 18.
"This is my dream," said Tseng, who shot rounds of 73 and 70 before a 65 on Saturday put her in contention. "I couldn't believe it, because I didn't play very well on the first two rounds. I just came back very good and won a major."
The LPGA Championship title might have vaulted Tseng into the spotlight, but it was hardly her first big moment in golf. The top-ranked amateur in Taiwan from 2004 to '06, Tseng won the 2004 U.S. Women's Amateur Publinks in 2004, and she beat the more celebrated Pressel in the final of the prestigious 2005 North and South Women's Amateur.
Yesterday, she definitely arrived as a pro. Starting the day 4 shots off the lead at 8 under, Tseng carded a five-birdie, one-bogey 68 that pulled her even with Hjorth (71) at the end of regulation, both at 12 under.
In the sudden-death playoff, Tseng and Hjorth swapped pars until they came to the 18th. There, Hjorth hit her approach shot to about 18 feet and missed the birdie putt. Tseng, whose putt was on the same line but less than half the distance to the hole, learned from her opponent's mistake, then ran hers in.
Hjorth had every reason to be disappointed by the loss. She held a 1-shot lead, at 13 under, until she arrived at the tough 14th hole yesterday. Her tee ball was lost when it sailed left, hit a spectator, and disappeared in the knee-deep wild grass. Back on the tee, she then sailed her next shot right, into more trouble. She made double-bogey and dropped 2 shots.
"She's been knocking on the door a few tournaments and it seems this was her tournament, apparently," Hjorth said of Tseng.
Early on, before Tseng and Hjorth began reeling off birdies, it seemed that Ochoa might make a bid for her third straight major title, especially when she sank a 12-foot birdie at the first hole to grab the lead.
But Ochoa never did mount a charge. Battling a balky putter, she reeled off 10 straight pars while all around her birdies were flying. She did make two back-nine birdies, but they were offset by back-to-back bogeys.
"It was a strange day," Ochoa said. "I never give up. I never lose hope. It was almost like it wasn't my time."
Nor was it time for Sorenstam, who was making her final appearance in a championship she won three straight times, from 2003 to 2005.
"It's tough when you give it all and you just don't feel like you are getting anything out of it," Sorenstam said. "I wanted to do well here. I felt good, and I thought it was going to be my week."