It was an old-fashioned shootout at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club in the final round of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia today, as world #1 and most dominant golfer on the planet Ya Ni Tseng applied pressure from the penultimate group by tying the tournament record with a 7-birdie 65 that brought her to -14 for the week, Brittany Lang responded from the final group by collapsing over her final 6 holes and missing out on her best chance for her 1st LPGA win in perhaps her entire career, and playing partner Na Yeon Choi bounced back from an early double with 5 birdies over her final 13 holes, the last of which came on the 17th, to secure her 1st win of 2011, 5th career LPGA title, 3rd-straight season with a win, and 3rd-straight million-dollar season.
It was also a great week for 2010 Rookie of the Year Azahara Munoz, who shot a solid 69 from the final group to secure a solo 3rd-place finish at -12, Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak, who followed up her tournament-record tying 65 on moving day with a 4-birdie 69 in the final round to snag a solo 4th at -10, and major winner Stacy Lewis, who bounced back from a late double Saturday with a 3-birdie 70 to catch Lang at T5 (-9). Others who finished strong include Munoz's Solheim Cup teammate Christel Boeljon (6-birdie 66 to snag a top 10), Angela Stanford (6-birdie 67 marred only by her 2nd-straight walkoff double which nevertheless still was good enough to catch Suzann Pettersen at -7), Shanshan Feng (7-birdie 67 to sneak into the top 10 with Boeljon, Paula Creamer, and Amanda Blumenherst at -6), Ji-Yai Shin (5-birdie 67 to just miss the top 10 and catch In-Kyung Kim at -5), Maria Hjorth (6-birdie 67 to wipe the taste of her terrible middle 27 holes from her mouth), and Cristie Kerr (5-birdie 67 to salvage something from an otherwise disappointing week). Hats off to Amanda Blumenherst, Amy Yang, and Mina Harigae, as well, all of whom matched Choi's final-round 68.
Unfortunately, Ai Miyazato's return to the LPGA was less than triumphant, as she fell to +1 and T32 by going 72-73 over the weekend, leaving her with just less than $90K she needs to win over her final few events to break the $1M barrier for the 3rd-straight season, Mika Miyazato only did a couple of shots better (although her top-25 did allow her to break the half-million-dollar barrier for the 2nd season in a row), and except for Boeljon no rookies made up any ground on ROY race leader Hee Kyung Seo (not Caroline Hedwall or Jennifer Song, who at least played respectably, and not Ryann O'Toole or Tiffany Joh, who were in a race to avoid DFL, although both at least broke 75 today). While that's good for Seo, it's bad for the prospect of much drama in this season-long race. Or any other, for that matter. Tseng's great finish allowed her to extend her money list, Player of the Year, and Vare Trophy leads on everyone except Choi, who's now 4th, 5th, and 2nd in those races.
The LPGA's travelling road show stops at Ya Ni Tseng's hometown for what should be a coronation and celebration of one of the best seasons in LPGA history. With over $2.5M in winnings already this season, Tseng needs a strong finish to become the 2nd player in LPGA history to break the $3M barrier. She'll be joined by the usual cast of characters (except Paula Creamer, who will be playing on the JLPGA next week, and Michelle Wie), with Hee Kyung Seo and Inbee Park returning to the LPGA after finishing T20 and T4, respectively, in this week's KLPGA major. Should be a treat!
[Update 1 (4:05 am): The Korean media is going to be making a big deal of this being the 100th LPGA win by players of Korean descent. I'd like to know how many of those wins were by Korean Americans or players of other nationalities. The 100th win by a Korean national will really impress me!]
[Update 2 (4:12 am): Nice live-tweeting from Kuala Lumpur!]
[Update 3 (12:14 pm): Nice post and pictures/video from bangkokbobby!]