Yani Tseng breathed a big sigh of relief. All those runner-up finishes became a distant memory with one missed putt.
The 20-year-old from Taiwan won the LPGA Corning Classic on Sunday by one shot over South Korean Soo-Yun Kang (69) and Paula Creamer (65). Tseng, the youngest player in LPGA history to surpass $2 million in earnings, finished at 21-under 267 for her second career victory and moved into third on this year's money list.
"I've been waiting for a year to win a tournament," said Tseng, a runner-up five times as a rookie and once more this year. "I wrote my (winning) speech in January. Every time I get so close and I don't win. This week I just let it go."
Japanese rookie Mika Miyazato (70) was fourth at 19 under, while Song-Hee Kim (67) of South Korea, Ai Miyazato (68) of Japan, Sandra Gal (69) of Germany and Vicky Hurst (69) were another shot back.
Tseng thought she was headed for a playoff and was stunned when Kang missed a 3-foot par putt on the final hole.
"I didn't even know how she missed the putt," Tseng said. "My head was down. Everybody was just, 'You win! You win!' "
"I misread the green," said a deflated Kang, whose only career victory came in the 2005 Safeway Classic. "I already cried. I played well this week. I can make a win. I just keep trying hard."
So much as been made of rookie Michelle Wie, but she has yet to win a tournament, while Tseng, Inbee Park and Morgan Pressel all defeated Wie in amateur match-play competition and won LPGA majors as teenagers. Tseng, last season's rookie of the year, won the 2008 McDonald's LPGA Championship in a four-hole playoff with Maria Hjorth, Park captured the 2008 Women's U.S. Open, and Pressel won the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Too young to drink legally, Tseng smiled when Creamer sprayed her with a beer on the 18th green during the winning celebration. And she was well aware that her first trip to Corning would be her last, at least for now.
The Corning Classic, the lone event on the LPGA Tour with the same title sponsor and held at the same venue since its inception, ended a long run at Corning Country Club. Corning Inc. announced a month ago that it would no longer be able to continue as title sponsor, and that was enough to kill the tournament, which began in 1979.
"I hope I can come back and defend my championship, but it was sad," Tseng, the 31st champion, said. "I wish I could come back to visit the town. I'll be missing you a lot."
Saturday's third round was simply amazing as 11 players shot 7 under or better, with Tseng and Mika Miyazato each tying the course record with 10-under 62s and Hurst making 10 birdies en route to a 63.
It seemed that Juli Inkster's tournament-record score of 24 under in her 2003 victory might be threatened after an early-morning shower gave way to sunshine for the fourth straight day.
But despite another day of ideal scoring conditions, the leaders failed to pull away from the closely bunched field. Kang and Miyazato began the day tied at 17 under with eight other players within three shots.
Creamer made the biggest run, and could only bemoan a couple of missed short birdie putts on the front nine. She missed an 8-footer that slid just 2 inches left of the hole at the par-3 third hole and for the first time in four rounds failed to take advantage of the easy par-5 fifth hole when her drive landed under a stand of trees along the left side and she parred the hole she had birdied the first three rounds.
Still, Creamer rallied to 17 under with birdies at Nos. 10 and 14 and was within two shots of the lead after Kang bogeyed No. 10.
Creamer kept up her charge, moving within one shot of Kang with birdies at Nos. 16 and 17. After driving near the left rough at the closing hole, her second shot clipped a tree and landed on the front of the green, 60 feet from the pin. Needing a birdie to tie for the lead, Creamer calmly rolled in a stunning putt as her 91-year-old grandfather watched from a balcony behind the green.
"That's probably one of the longest putts I've ever made. I hope he didn't have a heart attack," said Creamer, who glanced up at her grandfather and smiled broadly when the putt dropped and the big gallery roared. "That last little ridge, I was thinking, 'This has a chance, this has a chance.'
"It was the perfect putt, the perfect everything. It gives me goosebumps still thinking about it," Creamer said. "It was a great finish. I fought hard. I could have been a lot lower, but that's just the way it is. It kind of felt the long one was all the putts I missed."
Tseng began the round with a bogey, and after an eagle on the second hole she had 12 pars and a birdie. Desperate for a spark with the holes dwindling, she used driver at par-4, 304-yard 16th hole and drove the green, the ball stopping 12 feet from the pin as Tseng high-fived her caddie.
Meanwhile, Kang birdied No. 12 to get back to 20 under and gained a one-shot lead with another birdie at No. 16. Tseng, playing in the group ahead, responded with birdie at No. 17 to tie it at 21 under.
(This version CORRECTS Optional; corrects second graf that Tseng is from Taiwan.)