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Paraguayan rookie wins one million-dollar LPGA showdown

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Paraguayan rookie Julieta Granada won an LPGA-record one million-dollar top prize, firing a four-under par 68 to win the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship here Sunday.

Two days past her 20th birthday, Granada defeated LPGA Player of the Year Lorena Ochoa by two strokes, eclipsing her previous winnings of 633,586 dollars by capturing a one-day showdown for the biggest prize in women's golf history.

"It was so stressful," Granada said.

The unique 1.5 million-dollar event featured a starting field of 32 that was trimmed to 16 after Friday and halved again after 54 holes.

Second place paid Ochoa only 100,000 dollars but it was enough to clinch the season money crown because the only woman who could catch her, Australian Karrie Webb, settled for third place on 71 to win only 20,000 dollars.

Ochoa captured the season money title with 2.592 million dollars and Webb was second with 2.08 million. But both squandered their title chances with bogeys at the 17th after finding the water off the tee.

Granada became the first golfer to make the LPGA Tour Championship her first tour title and jumped from 19th to fourth on the final season money list.

Japan's Ai Miyazato, South Koreans Il Mi Chung and Mi Hyun Kim and American Natalie Gulbis finished at level par 72. American Paula Creamer was last on 75.

Granada, whose mother Rosa is her caddie, plans to spent some of the money to finance construction of a school in Guadalajara, Mexico.

"I love having her so close. We're such good friends," Granada said of her mother.

Ochoa was one stroke back and Webb was two strokes down as they reached the 17th tee. Forced to be aggressive, Ochoa and Webb each found a water hazard on their way to a bogey.

When Ochoa's eagle bid from the 18th fairway merely found the green, Granada had her historic million-dollar payday.

Granada grabbed the lead with 12-foot birdie putts at the sixth and 10th holes, then kept it with a 20-foot par at the 11th.

With four holes remaining, Granada led on 3-under par with Ochoa and Chung on 2-under and Webb, Kim and Miyazato all at level par.

Ochoa, who had not made a bogey in 41 holes, took one at the par-4 13th to fall two back and Chung took a double bogey at 16 to slide three off the pace.

Granada missed a 20-foot birdie putt at 15 but answered with a 10-foot birdie at 16 to stretch her lead to three strokes.

Webb and Ochoa kept the pressure on the rookie. Webb birdied the 14th and 15th and Ochoa birdied the 15th and 16th, leaving Ochoa a stroke behind and Webb two back with two to play as Granada strode to the 18th green.

Ochoa curled in a 12-foot birdie putt at 16 and the roar forced Granada to back away from her fairway shot at 18. Granada put the ball on the green and seconds later her rivals bungled tee shots at 17 to help hand her a victory.



AFP 191857 GMT 11 06

COPYRIGHT 2006 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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