LPGA Volvik: Minjee Lee birdies final hole for a championship birthday present  

 

Minjee Lee headed to the tee on No. 18 on Sunday thinking she had the lead at the LPGA Volvik Championship at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor. But In-Kyung Kim, playing in the group ahead of Lee, birdied the final hole to pull into a tie at 15-under-par.

Lee, who took a two-stroke lead into the final round, was leading for most of the day on Sunday until she missed a 7-foot par putt on No. 17 for only her third bogey over 72 holes. Now, on her 22nd birthday, Lee needed to birdie the final hole for the win or at least par to force a playoff.

Lee hit a perfect – and long – drive off the tee, leaving her about 190 yards from the hole on the 470-yard par-5 finishing hole. Her second shot was the big shot as she placed it just off the right front of the green. Then, Lee hit her short chip shot within a couple feet of the hole and tapped in for the birdie and the win.

“I’ve been playing pretty solid golf the whole year,” Lee said. “Next week is going to be a totally different week,” she said about the upcoming U.S. Women’s Open, then ominously added: “I know I’m striking it well and putting it well.

“I feel like because it was my birthday, either way I would have been happy. Obviously it’s nice to have a win, sort of a present to myself.”

Lee fired a 33 on the front to maintain the two-stroke lead she had when the final round started and closed with a 68 that left her at 16-under-par 272, one stroke better than Kim and two better than Moriya Jutanugarn. Lindy Duncan and Su Oh, who like Lee is a product of the Australian junior program, were at 275 with Megan Khang at 276.

Lee collected her first win of 2018 and her fourth career win (2015 Kingsmill Championship, 2016 LOTTE Championship presented by HERSHEY, 2016 Blue Bay LPGA). She is the first winner from Australia to win on Tour this season and rose seven spots in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings to No. 8.

With her win, Lee earns $195,000; she has earned $628,726 this season and $3,691,690 in her career.

Stacy Lewis, who fired an 11-under, 277, played on Sunday with Lee and was impressed from tee to green. “Unbelievable, especially early,” Lewis said. “She was rolling it great early on and making everything. It’s hard to get close when somebody does that. But she played great all day and played solid. When she needed to make a par putt, she did, and didn’t make any mistakes.”

Lee became the 13th different winner of the 2018 season with her win at the LPGA Volvik Championship. In 2017, the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give marked the 15th event of the season with 15 different winners, matching 1991 for the longest the Tour has gone without having a repeat champion.

Kim returned a final score of 15-under 273, hitting 13 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens. She has made five cuts in seven events, her second-place finish this week is the best finish for the 2018 season.

With her T8 finish this week, Ariya Jutanugarn remains at the top of the season-long LEADERS Top 10 competition with nine top-10 finishes on the season.

Jutanugarn says she loves playing Travis Pointe. “I always love to come back. I have one family that’s like our best friends and I really like to spend time with them in Ann Arbor. You know, just feels like home when we come here.”

 

 

 

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