Minjee Lee got up-and-down one last time at Jian Lake yesterday to win the Blue Bay LPGA for her second victory of the year and the third in two seasons.
The 20-year-old Australian chipped to 3 feet from the front runoff area on the par-five 18th for her winning birdie, forcing Jessica Korda to make an 18-footer for eagle from just off the back of the green to get into a playoff.
Korda missed to the left.
“It was a good fight out there and I fought to the end,” Lee said.
Ariya Jutanugarn tied Lee with a two-stroke swing on the par-three 17th, then hooked her three-wood drive into the water on 18 to end her chances of a sixth LPGA Tour victory.
“I knew that I had a good opportunity, but I wasn’t getting ahead of myself,” Lee said. “I knew Jess was going to make birdie — was probably going to make birdie — and so I thought to myself: ‘I need to make birdie here.’ I just put myself in good spots and then I ended up making birdie. Just stuck to my game plan.”
The Aussie rebounded after losing a six-stroke lead on Saturday, closing with a two-under 70 in hot and humid conditions to finish at 13-under 275.
Korda had a 71. Jutanugarn shot 70, her closing bogey leaving her two strokes back.
Five days after Typhoon Sarika blew through the South China Sea beach resort, the wind jumped up on the final holes, making it more difficult to hit the valleys and plateaus on the large greens.
“It played like a totally different golf course,” Korda said. “It wasn’t the same as every day. The golf course conditions were a lot harder today. Some greens were slow and there were some greens that were fast. All in all, it was a tough day out there.”
Lee earned US$315,000 and is projected to jump from 17th to 16th in the world rankings. She won last year at Kingsmill and in April in Hawaii.
She tied for 37th place the previous weekend in South Korea and was one of the many players who did not get to Hainan until Wednesday afternoon last week, leaving little time to prepare.
“I really came into this week with no expectations because last week I just played OK and I was like: ‘Oh, maybe I’ll have a better week this week.’” Lee said. “Just wanted to have fun.”
She did, and her mother and grandmother were there to celebrate with her.
“My Nan, she my biggest supporter,” Lee said. “I love having her around. She normally comes around for the Asia Swing, so yeah, it’s nice to have won in front of her. She was here, so that’s really nice.”
Jutanugarn padded her lead over Lydia Ko in the Player of the Year points race. The 20-year-old Thai star was 10 shots behind Lee after two rounds.
Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum (72) and Germany’s Caroline Masson (73) tied for a distant fourth at six-under.
England’s Charley Hull (69) was five-under and Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg (72) four-under.
Brooke Henderson (71) was three-under. The 19-year-old Canadian has played all four weeks in Asia and plans to make it six in a row with the stops in Malaysia and Japan.
Michelle Wie was one of the 13 players to break par, closing with a 74 to tie for 10th at one-under. She had her best finish of a year, topping a tie for 25th in February in the second event of the season.
Kaohsiung-born Candie Kung (76) was tied for 21st place on two-over. Min Lee (75) was four shots further back in a tie for 40th place, while fellow Taiwanese Yani Tseng (75) was another six shots back in a group tied for 58th spot.
Additional reporting staff writer
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