Francella's first victory comes in four-hole playoff

HUIXQUILUCAN, Mexico -- Even Meaghan Francella found it hard
believe: She actually beat Annika Sorenstam in a playoff for her
first LPGA Tour victory.

"Words can't describe how I feel right now," the 24-year-old
New Yorker said Monday after winning the rain-delayed MasterCard
Classic in only her sixth LPGA Tour start.

"Annika is the best player in the world. I was a little
intimidated, but I just tried to stay patient. I didn't want her to
intimidate me. I just tried to stay focused. ... I was like, 'Am I
really doing this?' I felt like I was dreaming."

The former University of North Carolina star from Port Chester,
N.Y., won with a 4-foot birdie putt on the fourth extra hole. She
closed with a 3-under 69 to match Sorenstam (66) at 11-under 205 on
the Bosque Real course -- the longest on the tour at 6,932 yards and
also the highest at about 8,000 feet above sea level.

Francella, the 2003 Atlantic Coast Conference champion who
earned her tour card last year with a fifth-place finish on the
Futures Tour money list, made the winning 4-foot putt on the par-5
18th -- the only hole used in the playoff -- after Sorenstam missed a
7-foot birdie try.

More than halfway through her final round of the MasterCard Classic on Monday, Annika Sorenstam seemed destined to claim a victory in her season debut for the sixth time in the last 11 years. No such luck, writes Jason Sobel. BlogInsider

"I didn't expect Annika to miss that putt," Francella said.
"I just tried to stay in my moment and make the putt. It was just
left-center. ... I had nothing to lose out there today. ... Nobody
knew who I was before this week, except the people back home."

Francella, who earned $180,000 for the breakthrough victory,
birdied the par-4 16th -- hitting an 8-iron to a foot -- to tie
Sorenstam at 11 under and finished regulation with two straight

"It's hard to be in this position," Francella said.
"Everybody's gunning for you. I'm proud of myself for staying
patient and staying confident. I had been in this position on the
Duramed Futures Tour, but never out here. I know that prepared me
for today. I couldn't have done it if I hadn't played out there."

Sorenstam, the two-time defending champion making her first
start of the year, had seven birdies and a bogey -- on the 16th

"I'm very happy with the way I played today. I shot 6 under,"
Sorenstam said. "I thought I made a good run at it. I'm very
pleased with the way I hit the ball today. I had a lot of chances.
It got very exciting. It came down to the end and a putt or two
would have been a different outcome."

Angela Stanford (67), Kyeong Bae (67) and Stacy Prammanasudh
(71) tied for third at 8 under, and Mexican star Lorena Ochoa (70),
Shi Hyun Ahn (67) and Hye Jung Choi (69) followed at 6 under.

"My error was in the first day of the tournament," said Ochoa,
who opened with a 71. "After that, it took a lot of work to come
back. The leaders were very far ahead. I can't say I had bad luck.
It never depends on luck. The more practice you have and the better
you hit the ball the more luck you have."

Francella dedicated the victory to her parents.

"They made a lot of sacrifice," said Francella, whose father
was with her. "I can just imagine how my mom is at home. She's
probably crying and she's been at church a hundred times today.
She's lit so many candles. I just can't thank them enough.

"It's something I've worked for my entire life. I had a rough
offseason. I think I proved to everybody I could do this. To beat
Annika is a dream come true. I think everyone would've been mad if
it was Lorena, though."