It took her 250 professional golf tournaments between the LET, LPGA and Symetra Tours and then eight play-off holes, but Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg broke through on Monday morning to claim her maiden professional victory at the ANA Inspiration: the first Major championship of 2018.
After four play-off holes on Sunday evening, before darkness fell at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, the world numbers 95 and nine, Lindberg and Inbee Park respectively, returned to the Dinah Shore course on Monday morning. Lindberg dropped a brilliant 30-foot birdie putt on the fourth playoff hole to deny the former world number one and Olympic gold medallist.
On the first play-off hole of the morning, Lindberg came a few rotations short of rolling in a 35-foot putt while Park came up short on her 25-footer. Both made par.
Then, they moved to the par-3 17th hole, their sixth playoff hole. Both players went left with their tee shots. Park landed in the bunker while Lindberg was stuck in the deep rough just short of the bunker. Park went long with her bunker shot but drained a 15-footer coming back. Lindberg responded with a 10-footer to extend the play-off.
Strategy changed as the playoff shifted to the par-5 18th. Park continued to lay up while Lindberg went with a wood and got on the green in two, albeit a long way from the pin. Park hit her wedge to 10-feet, but missed her birdie attempt and made par.
Lindberg lagged her eagle putt from 70-feet to about 7-feet and had a great chance to win, but missed right.
The play-off moved back to the tenth hole. Lindberg was first to putt and steam-rolled a 30-foot birdie into the back of the cup. Park was unable to answer with her 15-footer.
Immediately afterwards, Lindberg said: “I just know I’m a grinder and I just felt this was mine and I’m going to do this. I couldn’t believe that last one went in and Inbee didn’t hole hers and it’s mine!”
“I dreamt of this moment ever since I was a kid. I remember writing goals when I was high school to win a major and I thought it was too good of a dream to come true, but it has.
“It’s so cool that my parents could be here with me because I got into golf because of them and I don’t know how many heart attacks I have nearly given my dad this week.”
Shortly afterwards, she held her parents’ hands as they jumped into Poppie’s Pond together, along with her caddie and fiancé Daniel Taylor, who performed a spectacular dive in his white boiler suit.
Lindberg is the fifth player to make the ANA Inspiration her first LPGA Tour victory, joining Helen Alfredsson (1993), Nanci Bowen (1995), Morgan Pressel (2007) and Stacy Lewis (2011). She joins Alfredsson and Annika Sorenstam as the only Swedish players to win the ANA Inspiration, however she joins an esteemed line of talented Swedish champions.
Lindberg is the 11th player from Sweden to win on the LPGA Tour, joining Helen Alfredsson, Louise Friberg, Sophie Gustafson, Carin Koch, Maria McBride, Liselotte Neumann, Catrin Nilsmark, Anna Nordqvist, Annika Sorenstam and Charlotta Sorenstam.
She is also the fifth of five Swedes who have made a Major their first LPGA win: Liselotte Neumann (1988 US Women’s Open), Helen Alfredsson (1993 Nabisco Dinah Shore), Annika Sorenstam (1995 US Women’s Open), Anna Nordqvist (2009 LPGA Championship), Pernilla Lindberg (2018 ANA Inspiration).
The 31-year-old from Bollnas is the fourth player to take a wire-to-wire victory at the ANA Inspiration (including ties), joining Pat Bradley (1986), Betsy King (1987) and Pat Hurst (1998).
She earns US $420,000, to make for $461,036 on the LPGA tour this season and $2,347,545 in her career, in addition to more than €400,000 earned over nine years on the LET.
With her win, Lindberg climbed 61 places to 34th on the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings and Park moved up to world No.3.
Jennifer Song, who was eliminated when she could not match the birdies by Park and Lindberg on the third extra hole, finished in third position on 15-under-par. Jessica Korda and Ariya Jutanugarn tied for fourth, a stroke further back, with Moriya Jutanugarn and Charley Hull tied for sixth on 13-under-par. Ayako Uehara finished eighth, followed by Amy Olson and Sung Hyun Park in a tie for ninth.
The second women’s Major of 2018 is the US Women’s Open conducted by the USGA which will be played on May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek, Alabama. That will be followed by the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kildeer, Illinois, on June 28-July 1, the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes, England, on August 2-5 and the Evian Championship in Evian-les-Bains, France, on September 13-16.