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Youth triumphs again; Tseng, 22, wins her fourth major

Major championship golf is currently ruled by the young guns.

A week after 22-year-old Rory McIlroy's romp in the U.S. Open on the men's side, Yani Tseng was equally as awe-inspiring Sunday in winning the Wegmans LPGA Championship at Locust Hill Country Club.

Tseng closed out the tournament in style, shooting a 6-under 66 to finish at 19-under 269, 10 strokes clear of the field. It's the fourth major championship for the 22-year-old from Taiwan, making her the youngest player in LPGA history to reach that benchmark.

"Pretty unbelievable," said Cristie Kerr, last year's winner, of Tseng's accomplishments. "I played with her when she was 15 over in Korea and we knew she was going to be good. I didn't know she would be this good, but she is pretty dang good."

Tseng's 19-under total matches Kerr's winning score from last year and ties the LPGA record low score at a major.

The freight trains that rumble behind the third green at Locust Hill wouldn't have been able to derail Tseng on Sunday, even after a poor start.

A camera click on the opening tee shot seemed to distract her, and it landed in the left rough. Her second shot went into the gallery right of the green, and the ensuing chip flew well past the hole. She missed the lengthy par putt, making the first of two bogeys on the day.

"I told myself it's only [the] first hole, I can get more birdies, get it back," Tseng said.

She started at No. 2 by tucking a 9-iron from 120 yards to within 2 feet on the short par-4.

"It felt like a turning point for me because I make bogey first hole, and I'm still a little nervous on second hole and the pin was tough," she said. "It was huge for me to make birdie."

That started a run of five birdies in the next seven holes and made it clear she was chasing records while the rest of the field was chasing second place.

"It was neat to watch," said playing partner Cindy LaCrosse. "How consistent she was is inspiring. That's what you're supposed to do. Even if you have a five-shot lead, go out there and shoot 6-under and win it by a lot. It just goes to show how good of a player she is."

Tseng's place as the world's best female golfer has never been as secure. The sheer dominance of her performance has shifted the conversation to where her career will rank historically. Annika Sorenstam -- who didn't win the first of her 10 majors until the age of 24 -- called Tseng the new face of the LPGA on a televised interview with the Golf Channel.

Tseng, who actually bought Sorenstam's home in Orlando, Fla., appreciated the sentiment.

"She [Sorenstam] texted me [Sunday morning], 'great playing, bring the trophy home,' " Tseng said. "I was smiling saying, yeah, I will."

Tseng now has won eight times on the LPGA Tour, three times this season.

"It's definitely a dominating performance," said Morgan Pressel, who shot a final-round 71 to finish second. "She didn't make many mistakes."

Leading by 10 at the turn, Tseng had to search for some inspiration.

"I was like,'What's a new goal for me?' " she said. "That's why I tell myself, setting a record to make 20-under.

"The last three holes, Jason, my caddy, tell me, 'If you make 20-under, I'll buy you dinner.' I said, 'That's it, just for a dinner? I don't think that's a good deal.' "

She missed a 12-footer for birdie on No. 18 that would have gotten her that meal, but nobody seemed to care. As she approached the green, Tseng was greeted with a long standing ovation.

The wide smile she sported all week nearly gave way to tears of joy.

"I'm from Taiwan. It's a little country and the people here are very, very supportive of me. I feel really good about that," she said.

Tseng's second LPGA Championship helped her erase the memories of the season's first major, when she blew a two-shot lead to Stacy Lewis in the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

"I've been doing that this whole week," she said. "If I had a bad shot I forget about it. I'm always looking for the next shot."

More often than not, that next shot was superb. Tseng hit 11 of 14 fairways Sunday, and 38 of 56 for the tournament. She also found the green in regulation 57 of 72 times. The win earned her $375,000 of the $2.5 million purse.

Pressel made birdie on the par-5 17th to reach 9-under. That left her a stroke ahead of Suzann Pettersen (67), Kerr (69) and Paula Creamer (69). LaCrosse stumbled in the final pairing, shooting 5-over 77 to finish in a tie for 14th at 3-under.

Tseng can complete a career grand slam in two weeks when the U.S. Open is held in Colorado Springs, Colo. But first, she's got a stop to make.

"I am going to Niagara Falls [today] to look at that beautiful place," she said.

e-mail: jskurski@buffnews.com