Sweden’s Hjorth ends LPGA drought with win

Sweden's Hjorth ends LPGA drought with win
Sweden's Maria Hjorth fired a par-72 final round on Sunday to capture her first LPGA title since 2007, capturing the season-ending Tour Championship by one stroke ahead of South Korean Amy Yang in Orlando, Florida.

Hjorth’s fourth career LPGA crown was her first since the 2007 Navistar Classic and only her second since 1999.

Consequently, Taiwan’s Yani Tseng won the LPGA Player of the Year award and South Korean Jiyai Shin secured her status as the world number one at the end of the year. The Asian rivals were unable to overtake Hjorth or Yang over the last holes of the 2010 campaign.

Tseng has won three titles this ear, two of them majors, and became the first Taiwanese player to claim the top player award.

“I never thought I would be holding the trophy. Winning Player of the Year, this feels like I’m holding for a year. I have been working so hard to chase this title,” she said.

Hjorth, whose best prior showing of the season was a share of third place at Malaysia, had wanted to prove she could win after having taken a break from the tour to start a family.

“Every win is emotional for me, but being a mother and coming back after giving birth is definitely something that I’ve been hoping for. It’s nice to prove that it’s possible,” she said.

Hjorth finished 72 holes on five-under-par 283 with Yang, seeking a wire-to-wire win despite having never previously led after any LPGA round until this week, second on 284 after a final-round 74.

American Cristie Kerr and South Korean In-Kyung Kim shared third on 286, with American Laura Diaz and South Korean Na Yeon Choi a further stroke off the pace.

Choi edged Kerr for the Vare Trophy, awarded for the season’s low scoring average, after having clinched the year’s money list crown on Saturday.

“I wanted to win, but I think I did awesome,” Choi said.

Tseng, who finished 21st on 293, took LPGA Player of the Year honours as neither Kerr nor Choi could move past her despite their top-six finishes. Kerr was trying to become the first American to capture LPGA Player of the Year honours since Beth Daniel in 1994, but needed a victory to claim the award.

“It’s hard to have it come down to the last tournament. I did great to give myself a chance. It will be a well-deserved rest,” she said.

Shin, who was at risk of being knocked from the season-ending world number one ranking after missing a cut to 30 players for the final round, kept the spot when Choi, Kerr, Tseng and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen could not pass her.

Yang, seeking her first title since winning the 2006 Australian Ladies Masters when she was 16, took a four-over-par eight at the third hole while sharing the lead with Hjorth, finding the water to leave her playing partner three shots clear of the field.

“I just made a weird shot. As soon as I hit it, it knocked down to the water,” Yang said.

Hjorth, who opened with a birdie, stretched her lead to four strokes as she made the turn, but Yang battled back, opening the back nine with three birdies in four holes, while Hjorth recorded bogeys at 12 and 13 to fall into a tie for the lead.

Hjorth birdied the par-five 15th to regain the edge and Yang took a bogey at the par-three 17th to drop two back.

Yang birdied the 18th but it was not enough to deny Hjorth, who sank a pressure-packed final put to win the $225,000 (1.53 million kronor) top prize at the $1.5 million event.

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