SOUTHPORT, England -- Jeong Jang shrugged off the
intimidating presence of Annika Sorenstam to win her first pro
tournament and her first major by four strokes in the Women's
British Open on Sunday.
The South Korean posted a 69 for a 16-under 272 total at Royal
Birkdale to beat Sophie Gustafson by four strokes. Michelle Wie,
the 15-year-old amateur from Hawaii, was one of two players tied
Gustafson, who won this tournament in 2000 before it became a
major, shot a 67 for a 12-under 276, while Wie, who started with a
rain-lashed 75 in the first round, finished with a 69 and a tie
with Young Kim at 10 under.
Sorenstam, who had been chasing her third major of the year and
10th in total, already knew she had lost by the time she came to
the final hole in third place. To make it worse, she lost her ball
off the tee, took a double-bogey and wound up in a tie for fifth.
Before carding her fourth round in the 60s, Jang went out with
Sorenstam as her playing partner knowing that the world's
top-ranked player had won 74 tournaments -- 9 of those majors.
But Jang's display of long-range hitting and approach play made
it difficult to believe she had never won a tournament in 5 1/2
years on the LPGA Tour.
"It's this course," Jang said of the Royal Birkdale links. "I
had a lot of confidence because I hit my driver low. I had a lot of
confidence in practice and I didn't tell anybody."
After winning the Nabisco and LPGA Championship, Sorenstam
appeared on course for a Grand Slam. Now she knows that the players
who beat her at the U.S. Open (Birdie Kim) and British Open (Jang)
had never previously won a title.
"I'm not so disappointed. I think J.J. just played
incredible," said the Swede, whose 71 gave her a 279 total. "I
think she would have been very hard to catch today. So my hat's off
to her. She played excellent."
Wie carded a 69, which followed two 67s.
"Well I'm pretty happy with the way I played my first British
Open," Wie said of her last tournament before she returns to high
school. "But I just left so many putts out there."
Wie finished with two birdies but missed a four-foot birdie putt
at 16 and an eagle putt at 17 lipped out.
Jang led the tournament from midway through the opening round as
one of the early starters in wind and driving rain on Thursday. She
posted a 68 then and never let the strongest field possible get
anywhere near her.
She opened up a four-stroke lead at halfway, increased that to
five on Saturday and was six ahead at the turn on Sunday. Jang had
already birdied the first and Sorenstam watched as the South Korean
rolled in a 35-foot putt at the ninth. At the same hole, the Swede
made bogey after missing one from six feet to fall six behind.
Although Sorenstam never got close, Gustafson did.
The six-stroke lead Jang had at halfway had dwindled to three by
the 12th when Gustafson made two birdies in a row to move to 11
under and Jang missed a seven-footer at 12 for bogey.
It would have been closer but the Swede missed a 4-foot birdie
putt at 14 and Jang recovered from a poor second shot at 13. The
South Korean wound up with an awkward stance on a mound next to the
green but managed to chip to three feet to make par and stay 14
Gustafson got the lead down to two when she recovered from a
wayward second shot at the par 5 15th, chipping to within six feet
to make a birdie putt. But Jang responded by landing her third shot
approach to within four feet at the 15th and made that for another
birdie to go back to three ahead.
After walking down the 18th fairway, smiling and waving to the
fans, Jang then made her fourth birdie.