LOS ANGELES: Lee Mi-rim won the ANA Inspiration in stunning style on Sunday (Monday in Manila), chipping in for eagle at the 72nd hole and beating Brooke Henderson and Nelly Korda with a birdie at the first playoff hole.
Lee, 29, earned her first major victory with a final round of five-under par 67 that included three chip-ins — two of them for birdie — on the Mission Hills course in Rancho Mirage, California.
She was joined on 15-under par 273 by Korda and Henderson — who shared the overnight lead and both carded final-round 69s.
It was a heartbreaking defeat for 22-year-old American Korda, who led or shared the lead after each of the first three rounds.
Seeking a first major title, Korda led by two shots with four to play and had a one-stroke lead over playing partner Henderson as they walked off the 17th green.
But up ahead, Lee was playing the par-five 18th.
She had holed out from long range for birdie at 16 before a bogey at 17 appeared to put her out of contention.
But that changed when her chip from off the green at 18 raced to the hole, hit the flagstick and dropped in.
“I can’t believe it,” Lee said as she wiped away tears before taking the traditional champion’s leap into Poppie’s Pond — which must have felt especially refreshing in sweltering desert temperatures.
The tournament is normally played in balmy April, but was rescheduled and played without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“To be honest, I feel like I must be a little crazy for winning and for having won this, and I think I’ll be able to feel it once I meet my family and reunite with them,” added lee, who claimed her fourth LPGA victory and her first since the 2017 Kia Classic.
“It was a bit disappointing having the bogey on 17, so my plan for 18 was just to have a birdie and do what I have to do to keep my head up,” she added. “When the shot went in, I think I was really surprised.
“It must have been a bit of luck that helped me.”
Henderson and Korda had traded the lead on the back nine, Henderson falling back with a double-bogey at the 13th.
Henderson and Korda were both in the rough off the tee at the 72nd hole. Korda, forced to lay up, came away with a par.
Henderson’s second shot into the green rolled under the “wall” of fabric-covered scaffolding erected alongside the green at 18.
Her ball was extracted and she got up and down for birdie to join the playoff and the trio returned to the 18th tee.
Trouble off the tee
Korda was in the rough again on the way to a par. Henderson and Lee both found the fairway but missed the green, Henderson unable to get a birdie putt to drop as Lee chipped to five feet and made it.
“I played solid today,” said Korda, who became the fourth player to lead after the first three rounds but not take the title. “Had a couple bogeys kind of starting on the back nine, but I kept my calm.
“Didn’t hit a really good shot on 18 off the tee both times, so that’s what kind of got me in trouble there.”
Henderson, who missed the cut at the Women’s British Open three weeks ago, had been looking to bounce back with a second major title to go with her 2016 Women’s PGA Championship crown.
“I definitely played really well this week, which is a really nice feeling and it gives me confidence moving forward,” she said.
“Mi-rim played great today and so did Nelly. It was fun. It was tough to lose that way,” Henderson admitted. “I felt like I missed a lot of putts, especially the final round where I feel like maybe it could have been a different story.”