(Reuters) - South Korea’s Mirim Lee eagled her final hole of regulation to force a three-way playoff with American Nelly Korda and Canadian Brooke Henderson at the ANA Inspiration on Sunday, then birdied the first extra hole to walk off with a maiden LPGA major title.
It was a wild finish on a scorching hot afternoon in Rancho Mirage, California which ended with Lee taking the winner’s traditional cool plunge into Poppie’s Pond that rings the 18th hole at Mission Hills Country Club.
“I can’t believe it. Honestly I have no emotions,” offered a tearful Lee through an interpreter. “I just told myself, ‘Let’s finish this quickly’.”
Korda, who had led after every round, had looked poised to claim a first major victory when she stepped onto the 18th tee with a one shot lead but a few minutes later found herself in playoff.
As Korda prepared to tee off on the last hole of regulation, ahead of her on the par-five 18th, Lee was chipping in from off the green for an eagle and a final round five-under 67 to join the American at 15-under.
Henderson would follow with a birdie at the last for a three-under 69 while Korda could do no better than par, also for 69.
Back on 18th for the first playoff hole Lee once again relied on her wedge chipping to within five feet and making a nervy putt for birdie with Henderson and Korda both carding pars.
It was the fourth career LPGA Tour win for the 29-year-old South Korean and first since 2017.
And it came courtesy of a gut-churning rollercoaster finish for Lee who was in the hunt for the title one minute, out of the next and then back in it again with a birdie, bogey, eagle end to regulation.
Lee’s red hot wedge came to the rescue when she chipped in for birdie on 16 to pull within one of the leaders before just as quickly seeming to throw it all away with bogey at the 17th dropping her two off the pace.
But another pitch perfect chip for eagle on 18 put all the pressure on the two women following her.
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Lincoln Feast
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