HAVRE DE GRACE, Md.(AP) Watching the ease in which Anna Nordqvist won the LPGA Championship, it seems likely the 22-year-old rookie from Sweden won’t have too long a wait before cashing another first-place check.
Unflappable demeanor? Check. Consistent irons? Oh, yes. Steady putter? Absolutely.
Playing in only her fifth professional tournament, the steely nerved Swede shot a 4-under 68 Sunday to win the LPGA Championship by four strokes over Lindsey Wright.
Nordqvist finished at 15-under 273 in the tournament’s final stand at Bulle Rock Golf Course. After letting a five-shot lead dwindle to one, Nordqvist sank a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 14 and essentially clinched her first career victory with a 35-foot putt for birdie on No. 15.
Wright, who shot a 70, kept waiting for Nordqvist to panic in her first major tournament as a professional.
It never happened.
“It was amazing. Under that amount of pressure, not being in that position before and in a major and being a rookie? You can’t get any better than that,” Wright said. “She really didn’t falter today. She didn’t show any nerves at all.”
Throughout the week, Nordqvist appeared more nervous in the interview room than on the course. So after her advantage fell to a stroke, her mindset never changed.
“I just kept being patient. I think that’s really what paid off at the end,” she said.
Nordqvist completed the final four holes of the suspended third round at 7:30 in the morning, then teed off as part of the final twosome shortly after 2:30 p.m. She took a two-shot lead into the fourth round, quickly increased the margin and held on to earn the $300,000 top prize.
“It was almost like a little bit of a match-play event coming down the stretch,” Wright said. “I thought she was really holding it together, and I thought, she’s not giving this championship away. I have to go for it.”
Wright gave it her best shot, but it wasn’t enough. Nordqvist was just too good.
“She’s a phenomenal player,” Wright said.
Nordqvist said this week she patterned her game after Swedish great Annika Sorenstam. Now, like Sorenstam, Nordqvist’s first win on the LPGA Tour is in a major tournament. Sorenstam broke into the win column in 1995 at the U.S. Women’s Open.
Sorenstam went on to enjoy a lucrative career. There’s no telling how Nordqvist will fare, but she’s sure off to a heck of a start.
Nordqvist celebrated her birthday Wednesday, shot a 66 on Thursday, took the lead in the second round Friday and held on to it throughout the weekend.
“Obviously, it’s a great feeling. It’s been an incredible week,” Nordqvist said. “I had so much fun.”
Her best previous finish this year was a tie for 17th in the Corona Championship.
Looking surprisingly fresh and calm, Nordqvist birdied No. 1 and opened up a four-shot lead with an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 6. All week long her putting had been precise, and Sunday was no exception.
“I feel like the last couple weeks I’ve been putting well,” Nordqvist said. “Making putts gives you confidence, and I felt very confident on the greens. I saw the lines.”
The gap widened to five shots when Wright bogeyed 7, but birdies by the Australian on Nos. 8, 9 and 12, combined with Nordqvist’s lone bogey on 13, cut the gap to one.
Nordqvist rebounded with her birdie-birdie salvo, leaving the final three holes a mere formality.
The LPGA Championship will get a new sponsor and a new home in 2010. The memory of this one, however, will linger.
Jiyai Shin (68) took third at 10 under; Kyeong Bae (68) was 9 under; and Angela Stanford (69), Nicole Castrale (69) and Kristy McPherson (70) tied at 8 under.
Nordqvist’s victory follows that of Yani Tseng, who won as a rookie in 2008 at Bulle Rock. Tseng tied for 23rd in this tournament.