KUALA LUMPUR: American Cristie Kerr holed a 36-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to close out a dramatic final round and win the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia on Sunday.
Just when the US$1.8 tournament looked as though it was heading for a four-way play-off, the seasoned professional showcased her putting prowess in front of packed galleries at the TPC Kuala Lumpur to claim a single-shot victory over Danielle Kang, Jacqui Concolino and two-time champion Shanshan Feng.
Kerr carded a level-par 71 for a winning total of 15-under-par 269, clinching an impressive 20th LPGA Tour victory just weeks after her 40th birthday.
Favourite Feng was also unable to break par on a course that she has so dominated over the years. Trailling by a stroke overnight, the popular Chinese looked like she was out of the running with dropped shots on nine and 13th.
But she fought back gallantly down the stretch to haul herself into contention, only to pull her own birdie attempt on the last wide off the mark.
Reigning Women’s PGA champion Danielle Kang had earlier set the clubhouse target at 14-under, thanks to a her tournament low round of five-under 66. She was soon joined by compatriot Jacqui Concolino, who had the chance to go top but missed a makeable birdie attempt on the closing hole.
Leading final results (Par-71)
269 – Cristie Kerr 🇺🇸 70-63-65-71
270 – Danielle Kang 🇺🇸 68-67-69-66, Jacqui Concolino 🇺🇸 68-68-67-67, Shanshan Feng 🇨🇳 66-65-68-71
271 – Brooke M. Henderson 🇨🇦 70-69-68-64, Nelly Korda 🇺🇸 68-68-70-65, Sung-hyun Park 🇰🇷 68-69-67-67, Stacy Lewis 🇺🇸 71-66-66-68
272 – In-gee Chun 🇰🇷 72-66-68-66, Sei-young Kim 🇰🇷 69-65-68-70
273 – Lydia Ko 🇳🇿 64-72-70-67, Madelene Sagstrom 🇸🇪 66-66-73-68
Only the 27th player in LPGA history to reach the milestone, Kerr also becomes the the first 40-year-old to win on Tour since 2011 when Catriona Matthew won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational at 42.
“It was meant to be,” said Kerr about the putt on 18. “What a way to win. I always said I wanted to get a win in my 40’s and I got it pretty quick.”
“Yeah, I knew it was going to be like a five-way playoff. I was just like, got to do it. Got to do it. I was just, the only thing I could control was trusting my line and hitting the putt with the speed to make it, and I did it. Never left the hole. It never even tried to lip out,” added the stalwart, who picked up a winner’s cheque of US$270,000.
Feng, who extended her brilliant record of podiums at TPC Kuala Lumpur, said: “I tried my best. On the last three holes, I made two birdies, and on the last hole, Cristie held that putt. You know, I was just trying to make that putt, but I didn’t.
“I think second is still not a bad finish here, and I’m still keeping my record pretty good here in Malaysia. So it goes 2-1-2-1-2; I’ll come back next year and see if I can keep it up,” she noted.
Finishing at a respectable nine-over par on aggregate, 16-year-old Malaysian Winnie Ng Yu Xuan emerged as the tournament’s low amataue, while also topping the eight-strong Malaysian contingent.
“[It feels] Really good. I was really grateful that I have such a good opportunity to play in this event, thanks to Sime Darby LPGA. And I had a lot of fun with the professionals. They were really friendly, all of them, for this week, all the players.
“Last year, my mistake was I playing their game plan. Some of them, they attack the pin and I did the same thing. But you know, amateurs are not as good. So this year, I learned to play my own game plan; hit it to the middle of the green.
“I learned to not expect anything. I told myself that I’m not going to expect myself to be in any position, and not to expect all of this to happen. Just play with no pressure and just have fun,” shared the national amateur.