Jeong Jang gains wire to wire victory
South Korean Jeong Jang completed a wire-to-wire victory to claim her first professional title at the Weetabix Women's British Open, this season’s final major championship, at Royal Birkdale GC.
She defeated Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson by a four-stroke margin at sixteen-under-par 272 (68-66-69-69).
Gustafson finished in second at 12 under par 276 (69 73 67 67).Young Kim from Korea and 15-year-old amateur Michelle Wie from Hawaii tied for third position at ten under par 278. Wie’s was the best ever finish by an amateur in the championship.
World no.1 Annika Sorenstam, who was playing in the final group with Jang, carded a 71 to drop back from a share of second position to tie for fifth place, at nine under par 269.
Fellow Swede Liselotte Neumann carded a 70 and Cristie Kerr from the USA had a 71 to tie with Sorenstam.
Karen Stupples, the defending champion, had a final round 71 to finish in a tie for 11th position, narrowly missing out on Solheim Cup points, which are awarded for top ten finishes.
Jang, 25, who is based in Orlando, Florida, takes £160,000 in prize money and becomes the first player to secure her maiden professional victory at the championship since Karrie Webb won at Woburn in 1995.
She also becomes the first player to lead a women’s major championship from start to finish since Karrie Webb at the 2000 Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Despite playing with the world number one, Jang played a solid round and kept her lead all day.
“I’m really nervous right now,” said the 5’ 2” Korean in her post-round press conference, adding, “More nervous than I was on the golf course.”
“I was really nervous before and I couldn’t sleep last night, but my caddy, Les Luark, kept me relaxed and that was really important.”
Following her round, Jang, who finished tied second at the Women’s World Cup of Golf in South Africa in February, was soaked by her playing partner in the event and Samsung Ladies Masters Champion Bo Bae Song, also from Korea.
She admitted that her silky putting and low drives were perfectly suited to the links conditions at Royal Birkdale.
“On this course I had a lot of confidence, because I hit my driver low, which is good for the wind and when I played practise rounds on this course I was very pleased, but I didn’t tell anyone,” she said.
Jang, who turned professional in 2000, has waited almost five years for this victory. >From the opening round, where she shot a four under par 68 in driving wind and rain, she dominated the tournament and in the final round today, she made her intentions clear starting with a birdie at the first hole.
She hit her nine-wood to five feet: “That’s my favourite club,” she said.
It gave her a six shot lead over Sorenstam, until the Swede birdied the third and sixth holes, but when Sorenstam bogeyed the ninth, Jang replied with a birdie to remain six strokes clear.
Jang’s only mistake came at the par-four eleventh, where her approach found the left greenside trap and she failed to get up and down for a bogey.
But another birdie at the 15th was followed by a grandstand finish at 18, where she again used her trusty nine-wood to lay up short. She then chipped to four feet and despatched the putt for birdie.
Jang claimed that her excellent putting was helped in part by playing Tiger Woods Golf on her game boy and in part, by the fact that she changed her putter the day before the tournament from a Callaway two ball to a Yes putter.
In becoming the fourth Korean player to win a major championship, she joins Se Ri Pak, Grace Park and Birdie Kim in completing the feat, but is waiting to find out if she will enjoy the same level of adulation when she returns to her home land tomorrow.
“We have a lot of superstars, like Se Ri, Grace and Mi-Hyun in Korea,” she admitted.
She added: “But I just want to be JJ, I don’t want to be Se Ri or Annika, I want to make my own history.”
With her breakthrough win, she already has.
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