S. Korean Jang Ha-na captures 5th career LPGA title in playoff

October 28, 2019

South Korea’s Jang Ha-na picked up her fifth career LPGA title on home soil on Sunday, beating her Korean-American friend Danielle Kang in a thrilling playoff to win the inaugural BMW Ladies Championship.

Jang won the third playoff hole with a birdie at LPGA International Busan in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, and earned US$300,000 for the victory, her first on the LPGA Tour since February 2017.

South Koreans have combined to win 14 of 30 LPGA tournaments this year.

Jang rescinded her LPGA membership in May 2017 to spend more time with her family, and she has been playing on the Korea LPGA (KLPGA) Tour since.

Non-LPGA members who win official tournaments become eligible for an LPGA card. She can rejoin the LPGA Tour immediately for the remainder of this season, or she can do so at the start of the 2020 season.

Jang said earlier this week that she won’t return to the United States even if she won the BMW Ladies Championship because she wants to be near her aging parents.

But after her victory on Sunday, Jang said she’ll have to discuss her future with her family and will make her decision later.

Jang and Kang finished the regulation at 19-under 269 after a dazzling display of shotmaking and clutch putting. Jang, who was one shot behind the co-leaders, Lee So-mi and Lee Seung-yeon, at the start of Sunday, carded a 65 with six birdies, one eagle and one bogey. Kang, who sat two behind the Lees after 54 holes, shot a bogey-free 64 in the final round.

They went back to the 425-yard, par-4 18th for the first playoff hole, where Kang pulled her drive into left rough. Her second shot rolled through the green and into the rough, just in front of the grandstand.

Standing on the fairway, Jang put her approach shot into the deep rough, near the lip of a bunker located right of the green.

Kang rolled her tough chip shot to about four feet left of the cup, while Jang punched out her shot about 15 feet behind the cup on a downslope.

But as she had done all day, Jang made that tricky putt for a par. Kang matched that score from a much shorter distance, and the two returned to the 18th tee for the second playoff hole.

Both found the fairway off the tee this time. Hitting first, Kang landed her second shot about seven feet past the cup, while Jang’s approach stopped about 12 feet right of the hole.

After Jang missed her attempt, Kang saw her birdie putt to win the tournament lip out, sending the tournament to the third playoff hole at the 412-yard, par-4 10th.

The iron play made the difference there. Kang’s approach landed about a dozen feet left of the cup, and moments later, Jang stiffed her second shot to just a couple of feet behind the hole.

After Kang missed her attempt, Jang stepped up to drain hers to cap off a long day on the 6,701-yard course.

Jang, playing with a stress fracture in her right foot, started the day one shot behind the two co-leaders, Lee So-mi and Lee Seung-yeon, at 12-under. Kang played in the penultimate group right in front of Jang and the Lees.

And Kang was on fire early, opening her day with a birdie at the first and making four more on the front nine to make the turn at 16-under, one shot better than the field.

Jang had three birdies against a bogey on her front nine and was two behind Kang at the turn.

Kang birdied three of her first four holes on the back nine and held a three-shot lead with five holes to play.

But Jang was just catching fire. She drained a long eagle putt at the 11th to reach 16-under for the sole possession of second place.

Jang put more pressure on Kang with a long birdie at the 13th. She made a knee-knocker for a par at the 14th and then made another birdie at the 15th to get to 18-under, now just one back of Kang.

Kang got into a scrambling mode and didn’t make another birdie after the 13th. She missed the green long at the par-3 16th but saved par. At the 17th, she put her tee shot on the center of the green, a long way from the front-right pin location and two-putted from there for another par.

Jang kept rolling key putts. At the par-3 16th, Jang put her tee shot into rough behind the green and her chip shot rolled about seven feet past the cup. But she made that comebacker for par to stay at 18-under.

Jang’s tee shot at the 17th landed in the right rough, but that didn’t stop her from stiffing her second shot. She birdied from there to pull into a tie with Kang at 19-under.

Jang made another clutch putt for par at the 18th to set up the playoff, and she outlasted Kang for the title.

Kang, who won last week’s event in Shanghai, was trying to become the first LPGA player to win consecutive tournaments this season.

Kang was born in San Francisco to South Korean parents and spent a few years as a child in Busan, the hometown of her late father. Kang received honorary Busan citizenship last week.