SOUTHPORT, England — After Jeong Jang had already wrapped up the Women's British Open, Annika Sorenstam took a moment to contemplate her own failed bid for her third major title of the year.
"I'm not so disappointed. I think J.J. just played incredible," Sorenstam said. "I think she would have been very hard to catch today. So my hat's off to her. She played excellent."
Indeed she did.
Jang, who led after each round and entered the day with a five-stroke lead, shot a 3-under 69 Sunday to finish 16-under 272 at Royal Birkdale and win by four shots. It was the first victory of her six-year LPGA career.
Sorenstam, trying for the 10th major of her career, already knew she had lost by the time she came to the final hole. To make matters worse, she lost her ball off the tee on the way to a double bogey at the 18th and wound up in a tie for fifth, seven shots back.
Sorenstam's final-round 71 left her at 9-under 279 for the tournament. Sophie Gustafson, who won this tournament in 2000 before it became a major, was the closest to Jang after a 67 gave her a 12-under 276. Michelle Wie, the 15-year-old amateur playing her final tournament before returning to high school in Hawaii, birdied the last two holes for a 69 and finished at 10-under 278 and in a tie for third place.
Jang went out with Sorenstam as her playing partner knowing the Swede held a 74-0 advantage in tournament victories and a 9-0 lead in major titles.
It didn't seem to matter to the South Korean.
"It's this course," Jang said. "I had a lot of confidence because I hit my driver low. I had a lot of confidence in practice and I didn't tell anybody."
The result was an anti-climatic end to what began as a potentially storybook year for Sorenstam. She won by eight shots at the Kraft Nabisco and by three shots at the LPGA Championship. However, she stumbled at the U.S. Open, finishing 23rd in a tournament won by Birdie Kim.
Entering this week, she had a chance to join Pat Bradley (1986), Mickey Wright (1961) and Babe Zaharias (1950) as the only women to win three majors in one season.
Wie shot her third straight round in the 60s, carding a 69 to finish 10-under 278.
"I'm pretty happy with the way I played my first British Open," she said. "But I just left so many putts out there."
She missed a 5-foot birdie putt at 16 and had an eagle putt at 17 lip out.
Jang took the lead midway through the opening round of the tournament, shot 68 on the first day and was never truly challenged the rest of the way.
She was six ahead at the turn Sunday, but Gustafson cut it to three when she made two straight birdies to get to 11 under.
Gustafson got the lead down to two when she recovered from a wayward second shot at the par-5 15th, chipping to within 6 feet to make a birdie putt. But Jang responded by landing her third shot approach within 4 feet at the 15th, setting up another birdie that gave her a three-shot lead.
After walking down the 18th fairway, smiling and waving to the fans, Jang closed out the tournament with her fourth birdie of the day.