Marina Alex fired six birdies in a five-under-par 66 to win the Palos Verdes Championship by one stroke over world No 1 Ko Jin-young.
The 31-year-old American, who won her only other tour title at the 2018 Portland Classic, shook off an early bogey to build a 10-under-par total of 274.
She powered past overnight leader Hannah Green and New Zealand’s third-ranked Lydia Ko, who started the day one back, erasing a three-shot deficit on the way to victory, and admitted she hadn’t been sure she would see the winner’s circle again.
“It’s amazing that the hard work has paid off,” Alex said. “I wasn’t sure if this would ever happen again, if I’m being perfectly honest.
“There’s so many amazing young players out there.”
Alex noted the struggles that the Covid pandemic imposed on everyone. Her return was hindered by an injury that sidelined her for seven months.
“It’s just been a really tough rebuild back,” she said.
Nevertheless, she was able to stay patient on the challenging Palos Verdes course south of Los Angeles and take her opportunities when they came.
After a bogey at the 3rd hole, she birdied the 5th, 7th and 8th to make the turn two under. She drained long birdie putts at the 11th and 12th to find herself tied for the lead.
Her long eagle attempt at the par-five 16th didn’t drop, but she made the two-footer coming back, her last birdie of the day moving her into the solo lead at 10 under.
Pars at the last two holes were enough to preserve the lead as Australia’s Green made her fourth bogey of the day at the 17th on the way to a one over 72 and a share of fifth on 277.
Lydia Ko, who received stretching treatment on the course for tightness in her back, closed with her second straight 70 to share third with American Megan Khang (68) on 276.
Ko Jin-young, trying to shake off a disappointing finish in the LA Open last week, started the day four shots off the pace and climbed the leaderboard with a five-under-par 66 that featured an eagle and four birdies with just one bogey.
© Agence France-Presse