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Rookie Nordqvist wins LPGA Championship to earn spot in U.S. Open

HAVRE de GRACE, Md - From 1998-2006, the McDonald's LPGA Championship was won by Se Ri Pak, Juli Inkster (back-to-back), Karrie Webb, Pak again, Annika Sorenstam (three in a row) and Pak once more. All of them are LPGA Hall of Famers.

HAVRE de GRACE, Md - From 1998-2006, the McDonald's LPGA Championship was won by Se Ri Pak, Juli Inkster (back-to-back), Karrie Webb, Pak again, Annika Sorenstam (three in a row) and Pak once more. All of them are LPGA Hall of Famers.

One day, maybe Swedish rookie Anna Nordqvist will join them. What we at least know for now is this: Yesterday at Bulle Rock golf course, playing in her first major as a professional and fifth LPGA event, period, she put her name on a trophy that has been lifted by just about everyone who became anyone in the women's game.

The 22-year-old won the LPGA's marquee tournament, the second major of the season, by four shots over Australia's Lindsey Wright, who 2 months ago had finished fourth in the first leg of the grand slam at the Kraft Nabisco.

Nordqvist, the 2008 British Amateur champion, took a two-stroke lead over Wright into the final round. After seven holes, that margin had grown to five. Four holes later, it was back down to a deuce. Then a three-putt bogey at No. 13 made it one.

But she birdied the 14th and 15th. Wright answered with a bird at 16, and the game was still on. Or at least until Wright bogeyed 17.

Nordqvist provided the exclamation point with an approach on the home hole that left her 4 feet for one final bird.

Cue up that on-the-green champagne shower.

Her 4-under-par 68 gave her a 72-hole total of 273. Wright, who was looking for the first win of her 5-year career, carded a final-round 70.

Nobody else was ever really a factor.

For the record, Sorenstam didn't win the first of her 10 majors until her second season. Nordqvist becomes the second consecutive rookie to win this major, and the first player since Pak in '98 to win any major in her first try as a pro.

"It's going to take a few days to realize I actually won," Nordqvist said. "It's been an incredible week. Just great.

"I just kept being patient. I felt that would pay off in the end."

Nordqvist was scheduled to compete in a U.S. Open qualifier this morning in nearby Rockville. Instead she got to sleep in. No doubt the first of many perks.

"It was amazing," Wright said. "I said to her, 'That was bloody awesome.' It really was. For not being in that position [before], it's not getting any better than that. If it were me I probably would have wedged it around [on 18]. She didn't show any nerves at all.

"It was almost like match play. She wasn't giving it away. I had to go for it. Pressure is what you put on yourself. That's the way I look at it."

Nordqvist won't get a chance to defend her title here next year. This marked the last time that McDonald's will sponsor this tourney, ending an association with women's golf that began 29 years ago as the McDonald's Classic at White Manor Country Club in Malvern. In 1987 it moved to DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del., and became the tour's best non-major. Seven years later it became a major. And in 2005 it moved down I-95. Now, it's history.

From this point on, the LPGA will own and operate the event, although it hasn't been announced where it's headed, exactly what time of the year it will be played, or who will emerge as the presenting sponsor.

Anyway, out of the last 10 major winners, Nordqvist becomes the ninth who'd never won a major before. And of the last 34 major winners, 27 have now gone to players born outside the United States.

Through friends, Nordqvist said she received some encouraging words this weekend from Sorenstam, whom she's met "a couple" of times.

"She told me to keep doing what I'm doing, take it one shot at a time," said Nordqvist. "That helped me stay in the moment.

"It meant a lot to me, having that support behind you, just knowing that somebody believes in you."

She'd opened with a 66 on Thursday that left her one behind Nicole Castrale. After adding a 70 on Friday, Nordqvist was up by one. She then carded a 69 in the weather-delayed third round, but only after returning to the grounds early yesterday morning to play the last three holes (par-birdie-par).

Jiyai Shin (closing 68) was third, at 278, followed by Kyeong Bae (69, 279). Castrale (69), one-time Shop-Rite Classic champion Angela Stanford (69) and Kristy McPherson (70) were next, at 280.

"I tried to focus on what I can get out of my own game," Nordqvist said. "Just give it my best. This time, it was my time."

Growing up, she played a lot of sports before settling on this one.

"I played a lot of team sports," Nordqvist explained. "I started playing golf because I felt it was on my terms. It was basically up to me how good I wanted to be."


Cristie Kerr, the leading money winner, shot 72 for 288 . . . Defending champ Yani Tseng had a 74, 287 . . . Other notables: Lorena Ochoa, 73-287; Paula Creamer, 70-285; and Michelle Wie, who had a hole-in-one on Saturday, 70-287 . . . The U.S. Women's Open is July 9-12 at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem, Pa. *