After winning the LPGA championship back in June, the Taiwanese youngster treated herself to a karaoke machine. With an obvious fondness for music, it would’ve been nice to think that the world No.1 celebrated her latest triumph last night by belting out the hits to the ruddy-faced regulars of the Stag’s Head pub in downtown Carnoustie.
Tseng’s successful defence of the British title over the redoubtable Angus links may have started off on the wrong note with a bogey on the opening hole yesterday, but the 22-year-old eased her pre-round jitters and was swiftly back on song as she closed with a three-under 69 for a 16-under 272 to become the youngest player in history to rack up five major titles.
The great Patty Berg was 25 by the time she won her fifth big one in 1943, seven years before the LPGA was even founded. And Tiger Woods was something of a wizened 24 years and seven months before he reached a similar figure in the men’s game.
Tseng, who continues to tighten her vice-like grip of dominance on the women’s circuit, eased to a four-shot win over the fast-finishing Brittany Lang of the US and picked up a cheque for £239,047 after becoming the first player since Sherri Steinhauer in 1999 to claim back-to-back British Opens.
Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson made a final-day thrust and birdied three of her last five holes in a 68 to take third on 277 while Catriona Matthew’s spirited challenge was scuppered by a crippling six on the 18th for a 72 as she dropped back into a tie for fifth on 279.
The 41-year-old from North Berwick, the winner of the British crown at Lytham in 2009, finished alongside Germany’s Caroline Masson, who led by two with 18 holes to play but slithered off the top with a ruinous 78 that was strewn with debris.
Despite the churning belly prior to tee-off, it would eventually be Tseng’s day. “I was really nervous before I teed off and my stomach was hurting,” she admitted. “When I got closer to the putting green and my tee-time was getting nearer my stomach was getting worse. I told my caddie and my coach about my nerves but they said that was okay because the others players are going to feel just as nervous as you.”
Tseng, two off the pace after 54-holes, did little to ease the butterflies with a three-putt bogey from distance on the first as the unheralded Masson, ranked 141st on the global pecking order, holed out for par to increase her overnight advantage to three.
The 22-year-old’s lead did not last long however, and a brace of bogey fives at the second and third set in motion her agonising collapse as Tseng began to stamp her authority on proceedings with birdies at the third and sixth which lifted her to the front.
To the delight of the home galleries, it was Matthew, lagging six shots off the pace going into the concluding day, who emerged as a serious challenger as she plotted a tidy path up into contention with birdies at six and nine to turn in two-under.
While Tseng suffered an unusual wobble with bogeys at both the 12th and 13th, Matthew had an opportunity to heap the pressure on at the 14th but her 10-footer for birdie lipped out. Had that dropped, the Scot would have been lurking just a stroke behind, but the chance was lost.
She misjudged her approach on the profitable 17th, dribbled into the bunker and could only make a par-five before the day ended on a sour note when she found the left-hand rough down the 18th. A pulled five-iron approach then bounced out of bounds and led to a deflating double-bogey six.
“I knew I was in there at one stage but it’s a pity I didn’t birdie the 14th,” she lamented. “That could’ve put the pressure on.”
As Matthew’s assault petered out, it was Lang, the 25-year-old from Virginia, who had propelled herself into second with a four-under back-nine in a fine 67 for a 12-under 276. Tseng recovered her composure from her earlier blip and, when she trundled in a 15-footer for birdie at the 17th, a three-stroke lead coming up the last was hers.
Carnoustie had witnessed this before of course in the shape of Jean Van de Velde during the 1999 Open. There was to be no farce this time, just a final flourish. Tseng thrashed her drive away before pinging a nine-iron to within three-feet and knocking in the birdie putt to set the seal.
“I was thinking about Jean Van de Velde and I thought I’d better hit a good drive,” she smiled. “It’s so great making history on this golf course and I feel wonderful. To win in Scotland, the home of golf, is really wonderful and for it to be my fifth major, faster than anyone else, also makes this a very special day in my life.”