July 21, 2008

LPGA Tour/State Farm Classic

Oh wins playoff duel to capture first title

Oh was the fifth Korean, all age 22 or younger, to win on tour in 2008

Oh was the fifth Korean, all age 22 or younger, to win on tour in 2008

When Inbee Park won the U.S. Women's Open last month, she referred to the group of Korean women born in 1988, inspired by Se Ri Pak's double-major rookie year in 1998 and playing now with a large degree of success. One of those is 20-year-old Ji Young Oh, who defeated Yani Tseng on the first playoff hole Sunday to make the LPGA State Farm Classic her first tour victory. However, it was overshadowed somewhat by the disqualification of Michelle Wie, an American of Korean descent born in 1989.

Oh, a second-year player, began Sunday's final round at Panther Creek CC in Springfield, Ill., three strokes behind Tseng, a 19-year-old rookie from Taiwan. That deficit was erased by the turn, and Oh was virtually handed the victory by Tseng's frigid putter, overcoming a two-foot miss of her own on No. 17. Oh and Tseng tied at 18-under-par 270, one stroke better than 20-year-old rookie Na-Yeon Choi, then Oh won the playoff with a par after Tseng missed another short putt.

"I didn't play real well on the first nine holes," said Tseng, who came from behind in the final round to win this year's McDonald's LPGA Championship in a playoff with Maria Hjorth, making her first LPGA victory a major championship. "I really felt nervous. I feel if you have the lead you have more pressure than when you are not leading." She played like that Sunday, missing a half-dozen putts inside seven feet, including a six-footer on No. 18 to win in regulation and another from the same distance in the playoff.

The victory by Oh meant the last seven LPGA tournaments have been won by players 22 years old or less. And of those seven, five have been from Korea and one from Taiwan, with Paula Creamer the only American. Shanshan Feng, 19, the only LPGA player from China, closed with a 63 to finish T-4, her second consecutive strong performance.