| Annika Sorenstam hugs caddy Terry McNamara after winning in Wilmington Sunday. (Reuters)
Wilmington (Delaware): World number one Annika Sorenstam claimed her fifth major and her first LPGA Championship when she beat South Korea’s Grace Park in a sudden-death play-off at the Dupont Country Club on Sunday.
The Swede had to play a marathon 33 holes after Saturday’s third round was suspended because of torrential rain and she shot two one-over-par 72s to tie Park, who had a 70 and a 67, on 278, six under.
Sorenstam then won a thrilling finale with a par four at the first extra hole while Park, 24, failed to get up and down from a muddy lie in the rough short of the green as her dreams of a first major were dashed.
Americans Beth Daniel and Rosie Jones, and Australia’s Rachel Teske shared third place on 284.
The victory completed a whirlwind three weeks for Sorenstam, who has now won three LPGA tournaments and one event in Japan this season.
Two weeks ago, she had to endure intense media pressure when she appeared on the men’s PGA Tour at the Colonial event and last Sunday she staged a successful defence of the LPGA’s Kellogg Keebler Classic in Chicago.
“But this is amazing,” she said after clinching her 45th LPGA career title and a cheque for $240,000.
“This is the title I really wanted to win. I was focusing on the majors this year and it feels so good to have pulled it off.”
The victory took Sorenstam a step closer to a career grand slam. Winner of two US Opens and two Kraft Nabisco Championships, she now needs a British Open to complete the set of the four majors.
The 32-year-old is sure to be the favourite again for the British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes at the beginning of August.
Sorenstam danced round the green in joy after holing the winning putt on Sunday. “It was a long, tough day and Grace had great rounds and really piled on the pressure,” she said.
For Park, it was her best result in a major. “I knew if I could stay aggressive I would have a chance,” she said.
The talented young South Korean had an eagle three at the 11th during the final round and briefly led when she holed from six feet for a birdie at the 17th.
Sorenstam demonstrated her tenacity over the last nine holes, making a number of up-and-down par saves, and when Park took the lead at the 17th, the Swede responded with one of her own at the long 16th.