South Korea’s Amy Yang picked up the biggest win of her career on Sunday, beating Japan’s Nasa Hataoka to win the LPGA Tour Championship in Florida.
Young, 34, of Florida, carded a one-under 66 to complete a three-shot victory at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples and claim the $2 million first prize.
“I still can’t believe I did it,” said Yang, whose previous four LPGA titles have all come in Asia.
Hataoka had been atop the leaderboard since the first round and went into Sunday sharing the lead with Yang after shooting a 7-under 65 on Saturday.
But after going through the first 54 holes of the tournament without hitting a bogey, Hataoka finally came up short when it mattered most in Sunday’s tense shootout with Yang.
The two women reached 25 under at the par-three 16th and looked set to remain tied at the top after Young missed a long putt for birdie and the solo lead.
However, Hataoka bogeyed after missing her short putt to leave Yang one shot clear with two to play.
Yang said she was “really nervous” as they dueled down the stretch, knowing Hataoka could seize the momentum at any time.
“I had no idea where this was going,” Young said. “All I could do was stay on my game and trust it.”
The Korean then turned the screw on the par-five 17th. Both players were left with difficult third shots after seeing their seconds slip off the green.
Yang nevertheless made a superb third shot, her chip for eagle lipping out to leave herself with a short putt for birdie.
Hataoka’s chip left her with a difficult birdie opportunity which she duly missed.
Yang coolly rolled in her birdie putt to leave her two shots clear at 18, and from there she never looked like slipping, nailing the second to eight feet for another birdie opportunity.
Hataoka missed her birdie putt from the green, giving Yang three shots from eight feet to seal the victory.
In the end, the world number 36 needed just one stroke to roll in for birdie to finish in style before being showered with champagne by friends and teammates.
The moment was especially rewarding after injury concerns Yang feared could curtail her season, if not her career.
“Throughout my career I’ve had so many ups and downs, and especially a recent injury,” he said, adding that he was also pleased to push on for the win after coming up short while in contention.
“I had some close finishes and I ended up in the top five, top 10, and I really didn’t want that to happen today,” he said.
“At the start of the round I felt quite nervous and doubting myself… but I stayed strong throughout the round really well. That’s very important.”
Yang finished with a 27-under 72-hole aggregate of 261, while Hataoka was three back in second place along with Alison Lee of the United States, who shot a 66.
World number one Lilia Vu finished six shots off the lead on 21-under for the tournament after a seven-under-par final round, with Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul fifth on 20-under after finishing with a six-under-par 66 .
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