Friberg storms back in Mexico to win first LPGA title

March 17, 2008

HUXQUILUCAN, Mexico (AP) - Louise Friberg went to bed early Saturday night -- so early, she said, that her roommate laughed.

On Sunday, the LPGA Tour rookie (and former Washington Husky) woke up to win her first tour title, closing with a 7-under 65 for a one-stroke victory over Taiwan's Yani Tseng in the MasterCard Classic.

'I'm just happy to get through because I've been really sick the past two days,' said Friberg, making only her third start as a tour member and fourth overall. 'Our trainers gave me some medication to take. I went to bed really early last night and my roommate made fun of me a little. You just work with what you have, and today was one of those days.'

Ten strokes behind Ji-Young Oh at the start of play after opening rounds of 72 and 73, Friberg had an eagle, six birdies and a bogey in the 65 -- a Bosque Real course-record round and the best score by three strokes in the final round.

'I know I have a good game, but I honestly didn't expect to win this early,' Friberg said. 'I'm just going to keep working and follow the exact game plan that I put out for the year.'

The 2003 University of Washington graduate finished at 6-under 210 and made $195,000. She earned her tour card in early December with a ninth-place tie in the qualifying tournament.

'A lot of times I've played good in the last round and I did today, but I'm just happy to get through,' she said, beaming.

The 27-year-old Friberg birdied Nos. 3, 5 and 9 to make the turn at 2 under for the tournament. She then birdied the par-3 11th, eagled the par-5 12th and reached 7 under with birdies on Nos. 14-15 before bogeying the 16th.

On the 12th, she hit a 5-wood to 215 yards and made a 20-foot putt. She made 9- and 5-foot putts on Nos. 14-15, and three-putted from 18 feet for a bogey on 16.

Friberg, a winner on the Swedish tour in 2005, joined Annika Sorenstam as the only Swedes to win at Bosque Real.

'It's pretty cool to follow in her footsteps,' Friberg said. 'But I think it doesn't matter what nationality you are, it's always fun for the person who wins.'

Tseng, another tour rookie, finished with a 74.

'I just feel a little disappointed,' she said. 'I learned a lot from this experience and today. On the first couple of holes, I played too fast. I know, in the future, I'll take my time and be patient.'

Jane Park (70) and Jill McGill tied for third at 4 under, and Pat Hurst (72), Na Yeon Choi (73) and Eva Dahllof (74) followed at 3 under. Oh closed with a 79 to match top-ranked Mexican star Lorena Ochoa (68) at 2 under.

Ochoa, who shot her worst score in nearly a year on Friday, a 4-over 76, fought to recover Saturday with a 72 that still left her 11 strokes behind.

'Of course I would've loved to leave with the trophy, but I'm leaving content,' said Ochoa, who birdied four holes but missed a string of putts. 'Yesterday's and today's rounds have given me a lot of confidence. I know I'm playing well and ready for the coming weeks.'

Ochoa, a budding national hero who has introduced much of her country to golf, has won 18 LPGA tournaments but struggled to seal the deal at home, with just one victory in seven Tour starts in Mexico.

'There's a lot of pressure. She has brought together a whole nation and everyone is following her,' said Paola Zermeno, 26, who played for years with Ochoa on Mexico's junior tour.

Some blamed her continued home country curse on the hilly Bosque Real course, one of Mexico's toughest. But the two-time Rolex player of the year dismissed that suggestion.

'You have to look at yourself, not at circumstances like the course or the weather,' Ochoa said. 'Courses like this are hard, but they're hard for everyone. There is no excuse. You have to learn how to get yourself together and play to win.'

The 12,000 fans who ran alongside Ochoa clutching binoculars and umbrellas or waited in the lush ryegrass for her to appear, seemed not to consider Sunday's eighth place finish a loss.

'She gave a huge effort, and we admire that a lot,' said Andrea de la Isla, 13. 'She's a pride of the country and has kept her feet on the ground.'

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