CHICAGO: American Danielle Kang birdied the par-5 18th hole Sunday to edge defending champion Brooke Henderson and win the Women’s PGA Championship, making her first LPGA triumph a major victory.
Kang, who never managed a top-10 finish in 30 prior major starts, fired a three-under par 68 to finish 72 holes at Olympia Fields near Chicago on 13-under 271, edging Canadian teen star Henderson by one stroke.
“I feel fantastic, absolutely fantastic,” Kang said. “Having a major win, it’s amazing.”
She was the first winner since Meg Mallon in 1991 to birdie the last hole for the triumph.
“It feels pretty awesome,” Kang said. “That was the hardest two-footer I’ve ever had to putt. I had to tell myself, ‘You don’t miss 2-footers so just putt it.’ It was pretty nerve-wracking but I just did it.”
South Koreans took the next four spots with Chella Choi third on 274 after a closing 71. Lee Mi-Hyang, Amy Yang and Kim Sei-Young shared fourth on 275 with South Korean Park In-Bee and American Lexi Thompson sharing seventh on 277.
Kang, a 24-year-old from San Francisco, is a two-time US Women’s Amateur champion whose best prior LPGA finish had been a third-place effort in 2013. Her best major showing had been a share of 14th at the 2012 US Women’s Open.
“It was stressful,” Kang said. “Every single shot was stressful. Every putt was stressful. I just kept trusting in my own game and trusting in my putting. It’s all about believing in what you can do.”
After a birdie at the par-4 second, Kang took a bogey at the third, then began the back nine with another bogey.
But from there she ran off four birdies in a row starting at the par-4 11th to seize a three-stroke lead on 13-under.
Henderson, a 19-year-old coming off a victory two weeks ago at the Meijer LPGA Classic, birdied the par-5 first and par-3 fourth and seventh holes to reach 10-under, then stayed steady with nine consecutive birdies.
Three down with two holes to play, Henderson closed with back-to-back birdies at the par-3 17th and had an eagle putt stop rolling just short of the cup at 18 to finish on 272.
Kang, meanwhile, took a bogey at 17 to fall back into a tie for the lead, only to finish with a birdie to claim her long-sought first title after playing her first LPGA event in 2011.
“I played great all week. Came so close, and it really came down to those last two holes,” Henderson said. “I would have liked to make one or two more putts on the back nine, but it was a great week for me.
“There was a little bit more pressure coming into this week, and knowing that I won last year, I really wanted to do it again. I gave myself the best opportunity to do that, and unfortunately I just came up a little bit short.”
Choi, also seeking her first major crown, fired a 71 but could not join the title fight at the finish.
The 26-year-old from Daegu won her only LPGA crown at the 2015 Marathon Classic. Her best prior finish in any major was a share of fifth at this event in 2013.--AFP