RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – The only time all day that Yani Tseng wasn’t in control was when she took the traditional leap into the water at the 18th green after winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
With her mother, caddie and several friends also taking the plunge Sunday, Tseng jumped as far into the pond as she could, then remembered that she can’t swim.
“I told my caddie, ‘I don’t know how to swim, can you help me to get on the top?’ It was a little scary,” she said.
Everything else about Tseng’s day had her smiling. She eagled the second hole and pulled ahead of a star-studded field with a 4-under 68 for her second major title.
Tseng, from Taiwan, finished at 13-under 275 at Mission Hills to hold off Suzann Pettersen by a stroke. Two of Tseng’s three LPGA victories have been majors – she won the 2008 LPGA Championship as a rookie, beating Maria Hjorth in a four-hole playoff.
During her news conference, while still bundled in a white robe after her plunge, a strong earthquake south of the U.S.-Mexico border rattled the Coachella Valley.
Tseng reached up to steady her trophy, which was on a pedestal behind her.
“We have a lot in Taiwan, but this was big,” she said. “I like it. Cool. It’s like my big week. I hope nobody gets hurt.”
Tseng started the day tied with Pettersen (69), one stroke behind Karen Stupples. Tseng took control of the tournament by chipping in for eagle on the 521-yard, par-5 second, then getting a birdie on the par-4 No. 3 that put her at 12 under.
“I had an eagle on the second hole, and I know today is going to be my day. I just kept telling myself, ‘Commit to the shot and keep my tempo right, and just keep smiling all 18 holes,’ “ she said.
On No. 2, Tseng pushed a 3 wood onto the fringe, then chipped in.
“I just wanted to get close to the pine, and I chipped and I don’t know if it’s good, and then three feet before the hole, I know it’s going to make it,” she said.
“Yani got off to a flying start,” said Pettersen, who won the 2007 LPGA Championship. “She played great today and she deserved to win.”
Pettersen’s eagle chip on 18 stopped just a few inches from the hole, and Tseng tapped in for par on the final hole to win the tournament.
“Geez that was a big chip,” Tseng said. “I was scared to look. I’m happy that missed, because you know, that was for eagle, and I have to make that putt for win.”
Tseng two-putted for the win, then jumped into the water.
Tseng played even par on the back nine, yet no could catch her.
Pettersen had several chances to reel in her friend on the back nine with birdie chances on Nos. 13 through 16. The only birdie putt that fell in the stretch was at 16, leaving her two shots behind Tseng.
“I mean, one of those drops, of course there’s a little different pressure on Yani playing those last four or five holes,” Pettersen said. “I gave myself a lot of good chances, and it wasn’t really that I hit a lot of bad putts. The one on 15 we probably misread a little bit, but the other ones were as close as you can possibly get them, and then it finally dropped on 16.”
Said Tseng: “Otherwise she would be on top with me. And the back nine is always tough. That’s big pressure in a major. So I really just told myself, ‘Don’t look at her, just however she’s playing, I’m just doing my job, and then hit it on the green and play safe.’ Actually on the back nine, I didn’t be aggressive.”
It was another agonizingly close finish for Pettersen in this tournament. She tied for second in 2007 and ‘08, and tied for fifth last year.
“Yeah, just collect them up,” Pettersen said. “It’s starting to feel like it owes me one very soon.”
Song-Hee Kim (70) was third at 9 under, top-ranked Lorena Ochoa (73) followed at 6 under, and Stupples (78) tied for fifth at 4 under with Jiyai Shin (71), Cristie Kerr (72) and Karrie Webb (73). Michelle Wie (78) tied for 27th at 3 over.
Stupples, the 2004 Women’s British Open champion, had three double bogeys.
She took a double-bogey 6 on No. 6 after hitting her approach shot into the water in front of the green, dropping her four back. She also had a double-bogey 6 on No. 15, and her third double bogey came on No. 18 after she hit her drive into the water.