WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — It took an extra day more than she would have liked but 18-year-old Minjee Lee returned to the course Monday for her last two holes and left with her first LPGA win at the Kingsmill Championship.
Lee finished at 15-under-par for the tournament, two shots clear of So Yeon Ryu, to become the third rookie to post a win on Tour this year.
Lee becomes only the seventh player in LPGA history to win before her 19th birthday, joining Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Marlene Hagge, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and Jessica Korda. Her final round 7-under-par 65 ties Cristie Kerr and Inbee Park for lowest final round of the year by the eventual winner.
“I didn’t think that moment would come this year, so I’m stoked to have won,” she said.
When the horn rang Sunday evening, signaling the conclusion of play, Minjee marked her ball on the 16th green at the close of one of the hottest stretches by a winner we’ve seen all season with a 5-under-par stretch No. 11 through No. 15. She surely wanted to keep on playing, hoping not even darkness could stop the otherworldly run she was on after draining an eagle at the 15th.
When she returned to the course Monday morning at 7 AM, hoping to close the books on her first LPGA title, she three putted, opening the door for Alison Lee who birdied behind her at the 15th to get within two. That would prove to be just a blip for Minjee, who made par at the nerve wracking 17th and calmly two putted from 50 feet at the last to get into the clubhouse at 15-under.
“On the [18th], I looked at the leaderboard and I saw [Alison] made birdie, so I kind of thought, I’ll just do everything I can in my control,” Minjee said. “I just knocked it on and two‑putted for par.”
Up until this point, Minjee, the co-medalist with Alison at 2015 LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament, had enjoyed a solid rookie season with seven cuts made in 11 events, including one top 10, but she admitted she didn’t see this coming.
She was just hoping for a good finish to get her game in tune for her U.S. Women’s Open qualifier, which was to take place in Richmond on Monday. She didn’t end up needing to make that tee time, though, as her win Monday ensured her a spot in the field.
Alison Lee (12-under) bogeyed the last to finish in solo third. Perrina Delacour posted the best finish of her career, nearly quadrupling her earnings to this point, and Suzann Pettersen, Hyo Joo Kim, and Paula Creamer all tied for fifth to round of the top five.
No favorites at Wash. Open
KENT, Wa. – John Cassidy enters the 89th Washington Open Invitational this weekend as the defending champion. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the favorite.
Every year, it’s wide open. No one has the edge. In fact, there has not been a back-to-back champion in the tournament, started in 1922, since 1992-93 when Todd Erwin did it.
“There are a lot of good players and it’s hard to win any tournament twice in row,” said Cassidy, who beat Mitch Runge by one shot last year.
“You have to have things go your way, you have to make putts and you have to have some good breaks,” he said. ‘The Washington Open is always set up tough so you’re not going to go out slap in around and play well. You’re going to have to be in control, putt and chip well. You have to be on your game.”
The Open, one of the oldest tournaments on the West Coast, begins with the Pro-Am Saturday and Sunday at the Meridian Valley Country Club, which has hosted the event the previous two years. The three-day tournament begins Monday.
Among the other former champions in the field are: Chris Griffin (2013), Tacoma G&CC, Tim Feenstra (2007, 2011), Broadmoor GC), Brian Thornton (2009), Meridian Valley CC, Brian Nosler (2008), Golf in the Pearl, Josh Immordino (2006), Riverbend GC, Mike Gove (1985), Inglewood GC, Steve Stull (1982), Meadow Springs CC) and Chuck Milne (1973, 1976) Vanco Driving Range.
Some of the past winners of the event include former PGA Tour players Fred Couples, Jeff Gove, Don Bies and Rick Acton.
Over the years, there have been five of repeat champions with Al Mengert being the only player to win it three straight times (1963-65).
What’s interesting about this tournament is the longevity of the competitors. Erwin, as an example, the last back-to-back winner 22 years ago, is still among the favorites to win again this year. Five-time champion Chuck Congdon first won it in 1939 and last won it in 1962, 23 years later.
“The guys who do it, you know the names,” said Cassidy, the assistant pro at Alderbrook. “Personally, I think it a testament to their games and their abilities.”
Delacour takes Kingsmill Championship lead
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — France’s Perrine Delacour took advantage of Alison Lee’s late two-hole meltdown to take the third-round lead Saturday in the Kingsmill Championship.
The 21-year-old Delacour birdied three of the final five holes for a 4-under 67. She had an 11-under 202 total on Kingsmill Resort’s River Course.
“I think tomorrow I will be nervous because that’s the first time in the lead,” Delacour said. “So, I’m going to be nervous, but I’ll try to do my best and we’ll see after 18 holes.”
She’s comfortable on the River Course.
“It’s good,” said Delacour, winless in 19 career starts in two seasons on the LPGA Tour. “Pretty similar to European golf courses. It’s good for my game.”
After opening a four-stroke lead, the 20-year-old Lee dropped back with a bogey on the par-4 16th and a four-putt double-bogey on the par-3 17th. She finished with a 70, leaving her a stroke behind.
“Poor putting. That was a huge mistake,” Lee said. “That first putt, I didn’t think I would leave it that short. The second putt, I thought it would break right to left. I hit a really firm stroke, felt confident, and ended up breaking to the right and I had a poor putt coming back.”
Still a student at UCLA after turning pro in December, Lee tied for fourth in the Kia Classic in March in California and has three top-25 finishes.
“I’m not too disappointed with my round,” Lee said. “Obviously I am disappointed with those two holes, and definitely affects where I am in position going into tomorrow. I mean, one stroke is a lot out here, and unfortunately I lost two strokes on this hole. Just need to go into tomorrow with confidence and remind myself I’m hitting it well and not think about that hole or putt too much.”
Delacour birdied Nos. 14, 16 and 18 to take the lead.
Paula Creamer, So Yeon Ryu and Minjee Lee were 9 under. Creamer shot 66, Ryu 68, and Minjee Lee 69.
Changes planned for Stadium Course
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – When PGA Tour officials struggled to get the Stadium Course tournament-ready prior to last year’s Players Championship, commissioner Tim Finchem suggested a host of possible changes, including a redesign of a few greens that would help with agronomic issues in the future.
But numerous sources have confirmed this week that the changes may be more sweeping than originally advertised.
According to those sources, the Tour has a tentative plan to lengthen some holes – including the par-5 second and par-4 sixth – in an effort to put driver back into the players’ hands.
Perhaps the most dramatic change the Tour and architect Pete Dye are considering is a dramatic makeover of the par-4 12th hole.
At just 350 yards, the 12th is historically one of the Stadium Course’s easiest holes, with a small green and large mounds left of the fairway meant to create a blind approach shot.
The plan is to make the hole a drivable par 4 by knocking down the mounds, creating a water hazard, and repositioning the green, and playing it between 270 and 330 yards.
A few Tour professionals have been consulted about the potential project and the reception seems to be lukewarm.
“I know they want to get more excitement out here, but I think it’s a good golf course already,” said Billy Horsche, a Ponte Vedra Beach resident who regularly plays the Stadium Course.
“I’m just hoping they don’t do anything stupid with it. You’ve seen too many golf courses that are good as they are already and they change it a little bit and they are stupid changes and don’t add any enhancement to it.”
Spieth prefers format tweak
Hours after he was eliminated from the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship, Jordan Spieth offered his two cents on how the event’s format should be tweaked.
Spieth led the field in aggregate score through the first three days at TPC Harding Park, playing 49 holes in 15 under. While every other player who was at least 11 under advanced out of the group stage, Spieth was upset by Lee Westwood in their match Friday. Westwood advanced to the Round of 16, while Spieth was eliminated.
A move from single-elimination to group play was expected to better preserve some of the event’s top seeds, but the matches didn’t play out that way in San Francisco. Only five of the top 16 players won their groups, and only Rory McIlroy and Jim Furyk advanced among the top 10 players in the world.
Spieth’s suggestion should come as no surprise given some of his past success. The USGA uses a stroke-play qualifier for many of its match-play events, including the U.S. Junior Amateur, which Spieth won in both 2009 and 2011. The NCAA also uses a team-focused variant of the format in the NCAA Championships, which Spieth helped the University of Texas win in 2012 when he was a freshman
Quail Hollow to host 2021 Presidents Cup
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Quail Hollow Club has been selected to host the Presidents Cup in 2021.
It will be the fifth golf course in the United States to host the biennial competition between the United States and players from every other country except those in Europe. Previous U.S. sites were in Virginia, Ohio and California.
Quail Hollow became a players’ favorite when it first hosted what is now the Wells Fargo Championship in 2003. It will host the PGA Championship in 2017.
The Presidents Cup is going to South Korea this year, then Liberty National in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 2017.