Lee Mi-hyang earns maiden LPGA win in Japan

November 9, 2014
South Korean golfer Lee Mi-hyang holds up her trophy after winning her first LPGA Tour victory at the Mizuno Classic held at Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club in Shima, Japan on Nov. 9, 2014. (Yonhap)

South Korean golfer Lee Mi-hyang holds up her trophy after winning her first LPGA Tour victory at the Mizuno Classic held at Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club in Shima, Japan on Nov. 9, 2014. (Yonhap)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — South Korean Lee Mi-hyang captured her first LPGA Tour victory in a playoff in Japan on Sunday.

Lee, 21, won the Mizuno Classic with a birdie on the fifth playoff hole, edging out fellow South Korean Lee Il-hee and Japanese Kotono Kozuma at the Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club in Shima, Japan. Lee Mi-hyang took home the US$180,000 winner’s check.

The three players all scored pars on their first two trips to the par-4 18th hole in the sudden death playoff, and then all birdied the same hole on their third visit.

They had pars on their fourth trip to the 18th, and returned there for the fifth time, when Lee Mi-hyang broke through with the birdie. Lee Il-hee and Kozuma settled for par.

The three players ended regulation tied at 11-under 205 on the par-72, 6,506-yard layout. Lee Il-hee was tied for the overnight lead with two others at 9-under, and she shot a 70 on Sunday, with three birdies and a bogey. Lee Mi-hyang and Kozuma each shot a 69 to also get into the playoff. Lee Mi-hyang had four birdies and a bogey, while Kozuma scored five birdies against two bogeys in regulation.

Five players were tied for first place at one point in the final round. Then Lee Il-hee claimed a one-stroke lead at 12-under after a birdie on the par-5 16th, but fell right back into a tie with a bogey on the next hole.

Lee Mi-hyang and Kozuma finished their round before Lee Il-hee at 11-under. Lee Il-hee, needing a birdie on the 18th to win in regulation, managed only par and the three-way playoff ensued.

All three found the green in two and made pars the first time on the 18th. On their second trip, Lee Il-hee missed the green and found a bunker with her second shot, while the two others got on the green in regulation. Lee Il-hee’s shot out of sand came up short of the hole, but she managed par, while Lee Mi-hyang and Kozuma missed their birdie putts.

The three drained their birdie putts after reaching the green in two on the third visit to the 18th.

After three pars on the fourth visit, the stage was set for Lee Mi-hyang’s dramatic win on the fifth trip. She faced the shortest birdie putt among the three contestants and found the cup to clinch her maiden victory.

Lee Mi-hyang, who made her LPGA debut in 2012, is the seventh South Korean to win on the LPGA Tour in 2014, and the second consecutive after world No. 1 Park In-bee won in Taiwan last Sunday.

Prior to Sunday, Lee had only had three top-10 finishes, including a sixth-place finish at the Reignwood LPGA Classic last month in Beijing. She had made just $433,000 over her LPGA career before hitting the jackpot on Sunday.

On a bunched-up leaderboard, nine golfers finished one stroke out of the playoff, including South Korea’s Lee Na-ri and Chella Choi.

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