SUNNINGDALE, England (AP) — What was billed as Annika Sorenstam’s farewell to the majors turned into yet another showcase for the young stars from Asia.
Hours after Sorenstam walked up the 18th at the Women’s British Open to a standing ovation and closed her final major with a birdie, Ji-Yai Shin won the last major of the year by three strokes after a final round 6-under 66 on Sunday.
Shin, a 20-year-old South Korean whose 21 previous victories were all in her homeland or Japan, maintained Asia’s recent domination of the majors on the LPGA Tour. In capturing her first major with an 18-under score of 270, she led an Asian sweep of the top five places.
Taiwan’s Yani Tseng, winner of the LPGA Championship earlier this year, was second with a 66 and a 15-under total of 273, while Korea’s Eun Hee Ji (67) and Japanese third-round leader Yuri Fudoh (71) tied for third on 14-under. Japan’s Ai Miyazato (70) was fifth at 13-under 275, and 13 of the top 20 were from Asia.
The other Asian to win a major this year was Korea’s Inbee Park, who took the Women’s U.S. Open.
Playing well outside her comfort zone on the Korean LPGA Tour, Shin said she had a sleepless night ahead of her final round.
“This morning I was very nervous but I focused on my game and now I won, so I am happy,” said Shin, who has received an invitation to join the LPGA Tour. “My dream’s come true now.
“I was planning to play in Japan but maybe now I change my plans and play in America.”
That could be bad news for the Americans, who gave the Asians something of a run at Sunningdale with four players – Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis and Juli Inkster all in the top 16, but nowhere near the winner.
“Asians. And it’s not stopping either,” said Inkster, who made a great start toward becoming the oldest winner of a major at age 48 when she carded a 7-under 65 in her opening round. “They’re all coming.”
Defending champion Lorena Ochoa was left behind, too.
The Mexican threatened the lead early in her final round but wound up tied for seventh with an 11-under 277 after a 69. She also acknowledges the Asian threat.
“There are so many and they are playing so good, so consistent,” said the Kraft Nabisco winner, the only non-Asian to win a major title this year. “I need to improve. I learned a lot this week and I’m going to prepare for the next part of the season.”
Sorenstam doesn’t have to worry about that.
The Swede, who is quitting tournament golf at the end of the year to get married, start a family and focus on her business and other golf interests, finished with a 10-foot birdie putt for a 68 and a 6-under 282, which left her tied for 24th.
“I’m going to miss it, no doubt about it,” said Sorenstam, who has won 10 majors in her 14-year career, including this one in 2003 at Royal Lytham. “To finish with a birdie was special. There didn’t seem to be any doubt it was going in.”
The leading American was Kerr, who placed sixth at 12-under after a 70. Inkster finished tied for 14th.
Shin, who had to wipe the rain off her glasses during the early part of her round, made up a one-stroke deficit on Fudoh with a birdie at the fifth and then opened up a lead at the turn.
Fudoh found a bunker at the ninth, splashed out to another and took a bogey 5 while Shin tapped in a short birdie putt after her second shot left the ball 3 feet from the flag.
With the rain showers gone, Shin moved two ahead with another birdie at the 10th. And then came a big putt at 13 that pushed her three clear of her rivals. From 45 feet, she had the strength and line just right as it curled in from the left and dropped in.
Shin went to the last hole with her three-shot lead and, even when her second shot found a greenside bunker, there was no sign of panic. She pitched out to 4 feet and made that to complete her bogey-free round.