Eun-Hee Ji needed a hole-in-one on the home stretch to help fend off her rivals on Sunday as she claimed a dramatic two-stroke victory in the Kia Classic.
Ji had seen her lead reduced from four strokes to just one as she stood on the 14th tee. She then struck a 7-iron and watched as the ball bounced and rolled into the cup, immediately extending her lead to three shots.
She then dropped shots at both the 15th and 18th to finish on 16-under par, two ahead of both
Cristie Kerr and Lizette Salas in the final event before the first major of the season – the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills.
It was just a fourth LPGA title in ten years on the tour for the 31-year-old South Korean, who collected the $270,000 first prize and two Kia cars, one for the hole-in-one and another for the win.
— LPGA (@LPGA) March 26, 2018
”I hit it pretty well today,” Ki said afterwards. ”I am driving the ball really nice. I holed nice putts.”
Playing partner Salas (69) was magnanimous in defeat.
”I’m really pleased,” Salas said. ”Things just went Eun Hee’s way today. I kept fighting and I woke up a little late, started making birdies on the back nine.”
Ji started her final round strongly, a run of five birdies in seven holes from the fourth taking her clear before her spectacular ace saw her home as the chasing pack closed in.
Kerr, who was left to rue her 75 on Saturday, made six birdies in her round of 68 as she finished tied for second with Salas.
Jane Park (67), Kris Tamulis (68) and In-kyung Kim (70) finished tied for fourth at 13 under par, while Anna Nordqvist (69) was among three players at 12 under.
Last week’s winner Inbee Park shot a final round 69 to tie for 18th position at 9 under par.
Sam Horsfield was literally lost for words after his maiden European Tour win.
The American sits atop the leaderboard despite a mixed third round on Saturday.
The Englishman saw a commanding lead cut after a stuttering back nine.
Brooks Koepka made a not-so-subtle dig at Bryson DeChambeau’s “anthill” moment from the first round in Memphis.
The tournament marked the resumption of the tour.
Horsfield fired an eagle and seven birdies in a second round of 63 at the Forest of Arden to share the halfway lead with Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez.
Koepka carded a superb 62 to take a two-stroke lead after the opening day.
A change in date from August to May last year placed the tournament second in line behind the Masters, in calendar terms at least.
The four-time major winner shot 62 in his opening round.