A Star is Born


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McDonalds LPGAHAVRE DE GRACE, Md. ' Hope for a bright new future.
Thats what rookie Anna Nordqvist delivered Swedish golf with her marvelous finish winning the McDonalds LPGA Championship Sunday at Bulle Rock Golf Course.
After Nordqvist, 22, stunned the field claiming her first major championship in just her fifth start as an LPGA member, runner-up Lindsey Wright turned to Nordqvist with words that best summed up the effort.
Anna Nordqvist
Anna Nordqvist celebrates her first LPGA victory. (Getty Images)
That was bloody awesome, Wright said.
With a spectacular 21-degree hybrid to 3 feet at the final hole, Nordqvist closed with a ferocious certainty reminiscent of her Swedish idol, Annika Sorenstam. The shot set up Nordqvists third birdie over the final five holes to close out a 4-under-par 68 and a four-shot romp.
Under that amount of pressure, not being in that position before, and in a major and being a rookie? You cant get any better than that, said Wright, an Aussie who closed with a 70. Shes a phenomenal player.
The victory came with fellow Swede Johanna Westerberg winning the Portugal Ladies Open on the Ladies European Tour.
It couldnt have come at a better time, said Nordqvists former Swedish coach, Katarina Vangdal, who helped douse Lindqvist in champagne in the victory celebration on the 18th green.
Vangdal said Sorenstams first year in retirement has cast a certain pall over Swedish womens golf.
The 6-foot, blonde-haired Nordqvist will help remedy that. She was the Swedish Junior of the Year in 2004 and 05. She won the Girls British Open four years ago.
Theyll be going crazy back home over this victory, Vangdal said.
A former Annika Sorenstam Award winner as the best 18-year-old in Swedish golf, Nordqvist has idolized Sorenstam since she picked up a club eight years ago. That made the special message Vangdal delivered Sunday morning so meaningful. Vangdal passed along Sorenstams best wishes and some advice.
Annika said to just take one shot at a time and to enjoy it, said Nordqvist, who left Arizona State after two years to turn professional. It meant a lot just to know that there was that support behind you and that someone believes in you.
A shot of hope for a bright new future doesnt hurt the LPGA in these uncertain times, either.
A certain sadness hung over Sundays finish to the McDonalds LPGA Championship. It was McDonalds farewell event, the end of its 29-year run as a tournament title sponsor and its 16-year run leading a major championship.
Next year, the LPGA takes over ownership of its flagship event, but the uncertainty of the transition is making players uneasy. The tour is still searching for a presenting sponsor, or a package of sponsors it may rely upon. It also hasnt announced where the event will be played with Bulle Rock Golf Course no longer expected to continue as the host.
I am concerned, eight-time LPGA winner Paula Creamer said on the eve of the championship. I said it at Sybase. Im 22 years old, this is my fifth year on tour, and we dont know where one of our majors is going to be. Its a scary thought, but hopefully everything will fall into the right place. Theres only so much we can do and well see what happens.
McDonalds has been a wonderful sponsor for the LPGA Tour, and its sad weve lost them.
LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens said her staff is busy working to put the new pieces of the championship together.
We are talking to a couple sponsors and looking at a couple different golf courses, Bivens said on the 18th green after the trophy presentation. This is like putting a puzzle together, one thing depends on another. Its the combination of course and sponsor were looking to pair up.
Bivens faces significant challenges with the slumping economy complicating her plans to grow the tour and create greater player benefits.
The LPGA has lost six tournaments off last years schedule. Like the LPGA Championship, the season-ending Tour Championship is in search of a title sponsor. A dozen LPGA tournaments are either seeking sponsors or up for contract renewals.
We have the same challenges everyone has, Bivens said. Its a different world.
Bivens counts the tours 10-year television contract with Golf Channel and its expanding international relationships, including a partnership with South Korean TVs J Golf, among the upsides shes attempting to build upon.
What became clear Sunday is that Bivens has another potential player as a star to sell in Nordqvist.
Nordqvist started the final round with a two-shot lead and built it to five leaving the seventh green. She showed poised when Wright cut the margin to one with five holes to go.
I kept being patient, and I think thats what paid off in the end, Nordqvist said.
Nordqvist joins Brittany Lincicome, winner of the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April, as the second first-time major championship winner this year.
The Swedish rookie managed to extend the American drought in the McDonalds LPGA Championship to nine years. The last American to win the event was Juli Inkster in 2000. Its the major the Americans have gone longest without winning.
Angela Stanford (69), Kristy McPherson (70) and Nicole Castrale (69) tied for fifth Sunday with the best finishes among Americans.
Lorena Ochoa, the worlds No. 1 player, shot a pair of 73s on the weekend and tied for 23rd. Shes winless in her last five majors.
In the end, Nordqvist looked unbeatable. She looked Sorenstamesque. With Sorenstams swing coach, Henri Reis, now shaping her game, even Nordqvists swing shadows Sorenstams.
Its a great feeling to win, and its going to take a couple days to realize I actually won, Nordqvist said.
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - McDonald's LPGA Championship
  • Full Coverage - McDonald's LPGA Championship