OCALA, Fla. (AP) Ha Na Jang had to go the final 36 holes with the best player in women’s golf to capture her first LPGA Tour title Saturday.
The biggest challenge turned out to be cold and rain.
Jang reclaimed the lead with a 5-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole and closed with an even-par 72 on Saturday for a two-shot victory over Canadian teen Brooke Henderson in the Coates Golf Championship.
”It’s amazing how I feel right now,” said the 23-year-old Korean, who was in tears after making one last birdie that only affected the margin.
She finished at 11-under 277 and earned $225,000.
Lydia Ko, the LPGA player of the year making her 2016 debut, was tied with Jang after they completed the third round Saturday morning at Golden Ocala.
Ko, however, fell apart in the middle of the final round. She made three straight bogeys to finish the back nine, then hit her tee shot into the water and made double bogey on the par-3 11th to fall five shots behind. She ran off three straight birdies late in her round to try to stay in it.
Ko closed with a 75 and tied for third, three shots behind.
Henderson had the lead until a pair of three-putt bogeys over the final five holes as the rain worsened, forming puddles on the edges of the green. The greens crew used leaf blowers on some of the puddles to help the water evaporate.
Henderson, who closed with a 72, tried to lay up on the par-5 18th with a hybrid and came within an inch of the hazard. With an awkward stance and a tough lie, she chunked a wedge to the front of the green, some 75 feet away, and did well to two-putt for par.
She posted at 9-under 279, and then waited to see if it would be enough for a playoff.
Sei Young Kim was at 9 under and had a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole that misses on the right edge. Kim then missed the 3-foot par putt and finished at 8-under 280. Suzann Pettersen was in range until she fell back with consecutive bogeys.
Lexi Thompson also had a chance until a peculiar decision on the par-3 15th. Thompson was two shots out of the lead when she chose to putt through about 6 feet of wet, Bermuda rough because the green sloped away from her. The ball moved only about 4 feet, and then she used putter again and barely got it out of the thick grass and onto the green. Thompson made double bogey.
Jang was 2 over for the final round after a three-putt bogey on the 14th and one shot behind. Henderson was on the 17th and three-putted to slip into a tie, and Jang pumped her fist when she made a 5-foot birdie on the 16th to take the lead.
She made a par without stress on the 17th, and played the 18th to perfection. The only nervous moment was her third shot to the 18th, which featured a back pin with a puddle on the back edge and wet rough over the green. Jang’s wedge flew all the way to the pin and checked up on the soft surface. She needed only two putts from 6 feet to win, and rolled in the center for birdie. When she won, she celebrated in Samurai fashion.
— LPGA (@LPGA) February 6, 2016
Jang was 15th on the LPGA money list last year as a rookie, when she was runner-up four times. The player of the year on the Korean LPGA in 2013, Jang is projected to move into the top 10 in the Rolex Women’s World Ranking. She was a runner-up at the Coates Golf Championship last year.
”I’m really comfortable at this golf course, and then very confident because of really good last year,” she said.
U.S. Women’s Open champion In Gee Chun had a 70 and joined Ko and Kim at 8-under 280.