New Zealand’s Lydia Ko eagled the first playoff hole to get the better of Australia’s Minjee Lee and win the MEDIHEAL Championship at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, Calif., on Sunday.
The victory is Ko’s first since the 2016 Marathon Classic and her third career win at Lake Merced Golf Club, where she is a member. The former would No. 1 player has gone through multiple coaches and swing changes since her last victory, with the 43 starts between wins representing the longest drought of her LPGA career.
Lee and Ko, both 21 years old, each finished the fourth round at 12-under 276, with Lee sinking birdies on the final two holes -- including holing out from the bunker on the par-3 17th -- to help force a playoff. She birdied there again in the playoff, but Ko nearly holed out by hitting a 3-wood to within 3 feet of the cup before settling for the clinching eagle.
“I hit some really good 3-woods today and I said, ‘Hey, you gotta maybe try to copy the one on the other par 5,’” Ko told the Gold Channel. “And I was able to hit a good shot again. I didn’t really know how close it was going to be. But just to have a 2 1/2 footer to possibly win is a pretty good feeling, but also nerve-wracking, too.”
Ko, who just turned 21 earlier this week, will jump 22 spots to No. 9 in CME Race to the Globe after clinching her 15th LPGA Tour title. With her win, she earns $225,000.
Ko entered Sunday as the clubhouse leader at 11 under before enduring some struggles. She had three bogeys on her first six holes of the front nine before settling in on the back nine for four birdies compared to a single bogey on No. 11.
Ko nearly chipped in an eagle at No. 18 to win outright, but instead she birdied and went to the playoff after a 1-under 71.
“It’s crazy because I was 3 over for the day at one stage today,” Ko said. “And I say, ‘Hey, you just gotta focus and you never know what’s going to happen.’ And I was able to kind of put my game together on the back nine. ... A lot of emotions. I know my whole team and my family, they’ve worked really hard for this moment, so I’m happy that a few of them are here and we can celebrate.”
Lee, who began the day in sole possession of third place at 8 under, surged to the top of the leaderboard with a 4-under 68 performance that enabled her to catch up to Ko. She made seven birdies overall, five of which came on the back nine.
China’s Shanshan Feng, who lost the No. 1 ranking last week, wound up tied for third at 8 under after a fourth-round 68 helped her climb up from 10th place. Americans Jessica Korda (74) and Angel Yin (67) and England’s Charley Hull (70) rounded out the group.
South Korea’s Inbee Park, who reclaimed the No. 1 ranking from Feng last week, finished the event tied for 31st at even par after a fourth-round 70.
Brooke Henderson (73) of Smiths Falls, Ont., tied for 43rd at 3 over and Hamilton’s Alena Sharp (76) tied for 50th at 4 over.