(Reuters) - Haru Nomura of Japan survived windy conditions and a mid-round meltdown to claim her second win of the season, a four-shot victory at Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in San Francisco on Sunday.
Nomura battled her way to a closing 73 to finish at nine-under-par 279, increasing her three-shot overnight lead on the Lake Merced course, but the final round was anything but a cakewalk for the 23-year-old from Yokohama.
Adding to her breakthrough Women’s Australian Open victory in February, Nomura joins world number one New Zealander Lydia Ko and South Korean Jang Ha-na as multiple winners early in the LPGA season.
South African Lee-Anne Pace (74) took second alone at five-under, with American Gerina Piller (73) and South Korean Choi Na-yeon (75) sharing third a shot further back.
With high winds whipping throughout the round, the challengers did not make any birdie runs towards Nomura, but they did not have to, because she came back to the field with four bogeys in five holes around the turn.
From five in front she dropped to just one clear through 11 holes, before making a magnificent 70-foot birdie putt on the 12th to steady the ship.
Choi made a late move with birdies on 11 and 14 but a bogey on 15 and a double bogey on 16 ended her challenge.
Piller also rued a costly double bogey, which came at the 11th during Nomura’s tough run.
“It was just one of those things where you can’t really control the gusts and you just had to focus on hitting solid shots and it’s tough,” Piller said of the winds, which gusted to about 30 miles-per-hour (48 kph).
“It seems like we have two British Opens this year. One-over was a good round today.”
With her husband Martin contending at the Texas Open on the PGA Tour, where he led early on Sunday before finishing equal fourth, it was a day full of emotion for the couple.
”It was awesome to see him playing well. He wasn’t getting many starts and he was kind of frustrated with that,” she continued, speaking on Golf Channel.
”He’s been working really hard on his game and to see him go out there and compete and be in contention is pretty cool. Nothing brings me more joy than to see him succeed.”
Two-time defending champion Ko battled to a 75 on her 19th birthday to tie for sixth at one-under.
Michelle Wie withdrew after the 15th hole due to neck spasms.
Reporting by Ben Everill in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Both