Lexi storms home for Sime Darby LPGA win

Lexi Thompson with the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia © eddieputera|TCH
Lexi Thompson with the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia trophy © eddieputera|TCH

Kuala Lumpur: Lexi Thompson turned on the style to cruise to an impressive four-stroke victory at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia on Sunday, ending a streak of Korean victories at the US$2 million LPGA tournament.

The American teenage sensation recovered superbly from as rough start that saw her overnight lead shaved to a single shot, draining  three consecutive birdies after the turn to pull herself away at the East Course of Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club.

Thompson added a further birdie on 16th but had the luxury of dropping her second bogey of the day at the penultimate hole to return with a round of 69 for a 19-under-par 265 total.

Starting the round six shots off the lead,  China’s Shanshan Feng fired four birdies in a flawless round of 67 to settle for second on 15-under 269.

Early pacesetter Ilhee Lee  of South Korea threatened to push Thompson to the wire with early birdies on sixth and seventh but fell apart with four bogeys in her last four holes for a 73, settling for a share of third alongside Suzann Pettersen.

The Norwegian made the turn with only a double bogey on the second to show but found her putting on the inward nine, as she mixed four birdies with a bogey to post a one-under 70.

A bogey-less five-under 66 saw Amy Yang take sole possession of fifth, two shots clear of a bunch of six players comprising of Germany’s Sandra Gal (66), Chella Choi (67) of South Korea,  Americans Alison Walshe (69) and Stacy Lewis (69) as well as Spanish belle Beatriz Recari (69) and France’s Karine Icher (72).

Meanwhile, national amateur Michelle Koh finished as best amateur and the leading Malaysian in the field after posting a three-over 74 to finish sole 60th with a respectable 10-over- 294 .

Two years after announcing her arrival on Tour with a victory at the Navistar LPGA Classic as a fresh-faced 16-year-old, Thompson was delighted to be back in winning ways.

“It has taken a little longer than I thought. But it’s the top players in the world here, so it’s not easy. Every tournament you have to shoot super low and you have to bring on your A-game and that’s what I had this week. It’s all the top players right here, so it’s a huge honour and privilege to be here in Malaysia and get this win.”

She admitted that the early exchanges proved a little to close for comfort as Lee turned on the pressure. “It got to a one-stroke different between Ilhee and me after that rough start with bogey on the second. I had a few bad tee shots but it was hard to grasp how some of my really good putts for birdie lipped out.

“I just tried to stay confident and that stretch of three birdies was huge to get the momentum up and running and getting the confidence going,” added Thompson.

Leading final round scores
265 – Lexi Thompson 67-63-66-69
269 – Shanshan Feng (CHN) 67-65-70-67
272 – Suzann Pettersen (NOR) 67-68-67-70, Ilhee Lee (KOR) 64-65-70-73
274 – Amy Yang (KOR) 72-62-74-66
276 – Sandra Gal (GER) 69-70-71-66, Chella Choi 72-66-71-67, Alison Walshe (USA) 67-71-69-69, Stacy Lewis (USA) 69-68-70-69, Beatriz Recari (ESP) 66-71-70-69, Karine Icher (FRA) 70-66-68-72