HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. - Playing in her first LPGA Tour major as a professional, with the burden of carrying the lead around the rolling Bulle Rock course, Anna Nordqvist went along calmly, as stoic as another golfing native of Sweden, Annika Sorenstam.
Sorenstam may be Nordqvist's role model but the 22-year-old rookie bettered her in one department yesterday. Shooting a 4-under-par 68, Nordqvist won the McDonald's LPGA Championship by 4 strokes and captured her first major in just her fifth pro tournament.
It took Sorenstam more than a year and 31 events before she won the 1995 U.S. Women's Open, her first of 10 major titles. The LPGA Hall of Fame member was paying attention to Nordqvist's play this weekend, sending encouragement her way.
"I got the opportunity to meet Annika a couple of times and it was a great experience," the former Arizona State star said. "She has been very supportive just sharing some thoughts on her career.
"She sent a few words to me through friends. She said to take it one shot at a time and just enjoy it. It meant a lot to me just to know that you have her support behind you."
Nordqvist saw a 5-stroke lead dwindle to 1 at the 13th hole after her only 3-putt of the week. But she played error-free the rest of the way, drilling birdie putts of 12 feet and 35 feet on the next two holes to reestablish control.
"It was amazing; I said to her, 'That was bloody awesome,' " said Australia's Lindsey Wright, who played in the final pairing with Nordqvist, shot a 70, and finished second at 277.
"Under that amount of pressure, not being in that position before, and in a major being a rookie, you can't get any better than that. . . . She didn't show the nerves at all."
No, she didn't, but that didn't mean she was completely without them.
"Of course, there were" nerves, Nordqvist said. "That's part of it. I give a lot of credit to my caddie for keeping me calm all week. I've been really relaxed."
Nordqvist ended the final LPGA Championship under McDonald's sponsorship in grand style. She hit a hybrid club, roughly the equivalent of a 3- or 4-iron, that rolled up to within four feet, then managed one of her few smiles of the round.
Once the birdie putt dropped, her coach, Katarina Vangdal, and some players and caddies raced onto the 18th green with bottles of champagne and sprayed Nordqvist, who got some of the bubbly in her eyes and had trouble seeing who was hugging her.
Nordqvist became the second rookie is as many years to make the McDonald's LPGA her first pro victory. Yani Tseng won last year's championship in a playoff. Nancy Lopez and Se Ri Pak also won this event as rookies.
"Obviously, it's a great feeling," she said. "I think it's going to take a couple of days to realize I actually won."
The victory means Nordqvist does not have to go through a 36-hole qualifying round today at Rockville, Md., for the U.S. Women's Open. She's automatically in the field next month for the championship at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem.
Jiyai Shin and Kyeong Bae, both young players from South Korea, each shot 68 to finish third (278) and fourth (279), respectively. Three Americans - first-round leader Nicole Castrale, Angela Stanford and Kristy McPherson - tied for fifth at 280.
There was not an abundance of big names on the final leader board. The favorites never contended. Paula Creamer tied for 16th at 285 after a 70. Michelle Wie holed out her second shot at the first for eagle, but her 70 left her tied for 23d at 287, the same score carded by world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa (73).