South Korean rookie Ryu Hae-ran made four birdies and an eagle on the back nine Sunday to win the NW Arkansas Championship.
The 22-year-old from Seoul fought off the challenge from a host of rivals and overcame struggles at the start to fire a five-under-par 66.
That was good enough to finish the 54-hole event on 19-under 194 and defeat Sweden’s Linnea Strom by three strokes at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas.
“Before the season, I wanted to get Rookie of the Year but now I got a bonus, winner on the LPGA Tour” Ryu said. “Now it’s all meaningful.”
South Koreans Kim Sei-young and Jenny Shin, Japanese rookie Yuna Nishimura and Filipino Bianca Pagdanganan shared third on 15-under 198 with Australian Hannah Green another stroke adrift.
Overnight leader Ryu opened with a birdie but made bogeys at the par-five 2nd and par-four 5th holes and found herself in a trophy fight as she made the turn two off the pace.
“First nine holes I felt so bad,” Ryu said. “First three holes my iron shot is going too far. Always my ball is hit over the pin and I can’t try at birdie.
“But after the 9th hole I refocus for my iron distance. I tried more to bring my swing and made so many birdies and I got it.”
Ryu birdied the 10th and 12th, then dropped her 7-iron approach inches from the hole at the par-five 14th to set up a tap-in eagle. She followed with birdies at 16 and 18 to seal the triumph.
World No 37 Ryu became the fifth LPGA rookie champion this year, a Tour record, and only the second LPGA wire-to-wire winner this season after Brooke Henderson at the Tournament of Champions.
Ryu, a five-time Korean LPGA Tour winner and LPGA Q-school medalist, had five previous top-10 finishes this year, including eighth at the US Women’s Open at Pebble Beach.
Strom charged late, going four under in the last five holes to shoot 64 as did Bianca, who eagled 10 and 18 in shooting six-under 29 on the back nine.
Kim shot 66 but stumbled with a bogey at 16 while Shin made bogeys at 11 and 16 in firing a 67 for her best finish of the season.
Nishimura opened and closed the back nine with birdies in a bogey-free 68 for her best LPGA Tour result in 23 starts, sharing third nudging ahead of her fourth-place showing in last year’s Japan Classic.
© Agence France-Presse
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