The American Juli Inkster cruised to the biggest prize in European women's golf of £220,000 with a brilliant final round of seven-under-par 65 at the Evian Masters in France yesterday.
The 43-year-old, who was celebrating her 23rd wedding anniversary on Friday, posted a record winning score of 21-under-par 267 and claimed the trophy by a runaway six shots from the 21-year-old South Korean, Han Hee-won, who closed with a 69. The Mexican rookie, Lorena Ochoa, and the American Rosie Jones tied for third on 13 under.
Inkster, after a course record third round 64, started the final day tied with Jones. But a birdie at the first, three in a row from the seventh and more at the 14th, 17th and 18th sealed the 30th tournament victory of her career and her second title of the year.
"I played great all week and this is a fantastic victory," said the first American to win the title. "It's also the perfect result going into next week's British Open."
"I got the chance and today I capitalised. I played really well, didn't have a bogey and never let anybody back in. I play because I love to compete, but also to keep my name in the record books."
Han, who won her first title on the LPGA Tour in New York State last weekend, said: "Juli just played good, but this last week makes me more comfortable and confident."
Ochoa finished birdie-eagle, as she had in the third round, and said: "I'm very happy with the way it ended and my result in such a strong field. It was good experience."
Inkster was quick to pay tribute to Ochoa, saying: "Among all the young players coming through, Lorena really impresses me, not just for her play but her demeanour, her work-ethic, her respect for her peers."
Janice Moodie was the top Briton, closing with a 74 that secured a tie for 19th place as she continued her comeback from a severe shoulder injury that has ruined the early part of the season. "I'm definitely getting better and my form is returning," the Scot suggested. "I played well all week abut just didn't hole enough putts."
Laura Davies, the only Briton to have won the Evian title, was never seriously in the hunt to add to her wins in 1995 and 1996. A final round of 70 left her well down the field at 25 shots behind Inkster.
The world No 1, Annika Sorenstam, closed with a 69 for a tie for 17th on seven under, but already has her eye on the British Open starting at Royal Lytham St Anne's on Thursday.
"I actually played better than my score suggests over the last four days and I'm already excited about getting to Lytham," said the Swede who needs a British Open to complete a career Grand Slam.
For Sorenstam, who has been in the spotlight all year following her audacious decision to play alongside the men on the PGA Tour at the Colonial tournament in Texas in May, the trip to France was her first outing since she pulled out of the Canadian Open two weeks ago.
"I'm still feeling a little tired," she continued. "But I'm geared up for next week. I've come close to winning the British Open in the past, finishing second three times."