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Maria Hjorth Wins LPGA Tour Championship

Maria Hjorth.jpg

Maria Hjorth, of Sweden, lines up a putt on the fifth green during the final round of the LPGA Tour Championship golf tournament in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)AP2010

ORLANDO, Fla.  — Maria Hjorth won the LPGA Tour Championship on Sunday, using a final-round 72 to hold off a field that struggled to even make par.

Hjorth had three birdies and three bogeys on a picture-perfect day at Grand Cypress Golf Club, where only six of 120 players finished below par for the tournament. Third-round leader Amy Yang shot 74 to finish one shot back.

Hjorth finished at 5-under 283 for the tournament, the highest-winning score relative to par all year except for Paula Creamer's 3-under victory in the U.S. Open at Oakmont. The firm and fluctuating greens at Grand Cypress played similar to the toughest major this week, and near-freezing conditions in the first two rounds only punctuated the challenges.

Yang made a birdie putt on the 18th from about 15 feet over a ridge, forcing Hjorth to sink an 8-foot putt slightly down hill to save par. She did, dropping her putter and lifting her arms in the air in triumph after it rolled in.

Yani Tseng also clinched LPGA player of the year, despite finishing 5 over for the tournament. None of the major season awards even changed hands this week.

The victory was only Hjorth's fourth LPGA win and first since 2007. It also was a sweet homecoming victory for the Swedish native who now lives a few miles away from the tournament, the first LPGA event in Florida in two years.

The season-ending tournament turned out to be anticlimactic, even though it was never easy.

A week that could've shaped up to be one of the closest finishes the LPGA has had in a decade — now that Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam are both retired and every major award was in play — instead ended with a thud:

— Tseng became the first player from Taiwan to win LPGA player of the year.

— South Korea's Na Yeon Choi won this year's money title.

— Choi also claimed the Vare Trophy for the year's lowest scoring average.

— Fellow South Korean Jiyai Shin, who missed the 54-hole cut and was the only one who could unseat Choi on the money list, will keep her spot atop the world rankings. She finished 12 over.

Cristie Kerr also was within striking distance Sunday to be the first American since Beth Daniel in 1994 to claim LPGA player of the year. But her final-round 73 put her at 3 under for the tournament in a tie for third place.

The final round would have only one shining star.

Hjorth was calm and cool on greens that frustrated so many in the field. She made huge putts to save par over and over, perhaps none bigger than a 10-footer on the 16th hole.

That gave her a two-shot cushion over the final two holes, which proved huge on the 18th.