Sunday, February 2, 2014

Mi Hyang Lee Closes with 63 to Take NZ Open by 1 Shot over Lydia Ko

Mi Hyang Lee started her final round an hour and 20 minutes before the last group in the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open teed off, a full 8 shots behind 2nd-round leader Anya Alvarez, 6 shots behind Lydia Ko, and 5 shots behind Beth Allen.  But after following up an eagle on the par-5 2nd hole with 7 birdies between the 5th and 16th holes and posting a bogey-free 63, she stood at -9 with 21 golfers still on the course.

In the end, only 4 of them had a legitimate shot at passing her:  after Hyun Soo Kim got it to -6 but tripled the par-4 15th, after KLPGA Rookie of the Year favorite Kyu-Jung Baek fell from -5 to -3 on a birdieless 74, the only player outside the final group with even an outside shot at beating Lee was 1st-round co-leader Seonwoo Bae.  Here's how all of her lead chase pack fared:

  • Bae birdied 3 of her 1st 4 holes but still ended up with a 37 on the front--thanks to a double bogey on the 350-yard par-4 3rd and bogeys on 6 and 9--to fall to -4.  Even though she birdied her 1st 2 holes on the back to give herself a shot, her bogey-free 33 on the back just wasn't low enough to catch Lee.
  • Allen was stuck in neutral on the front, offsetting her 2 birdies with 2 bogeys to stay at -5, but she roared into contention with 4 birdies in her 1st 6 holes on the back.  However, she went par-bogey-bogey over her final 3 holes to finish 2 back.
  • Alvarez birdied 2 of her 1st 7 holes to get to -10, but fell to -8 after going bogey-bogey-birdie-bogey.  She then failed to make a birdie the rest of the way and ended up 2 shots behind Lee when she suffered a walkoff bogey.
  • Ko followed up an opening bogey with birdies on 2, 4, and 10 to get to -8, but she bogeyed the 350-yard par-4 13th and could make only 1 birdie the rest of the way to fall 1 shot shy of a playoff with Lee.
In short, everyone in the final pairing came to the last tee needing a birdie to force a playoff, and none of them could find one.

Lee wasn't the only player to go low today:  Sarah-Jane Smith's bogey-free 65 vaulted her into T6 with Bree Arthur (66) and Marion Ricordeau (68) at -5, while Nikki Campbell's 68 tied her for 9th with Hyun Soo Kim at -4 and 67s by Lorie Kane and Stacy Lee Bregman allowed them to catch Baek, Charley Hull, Marta Silva Zamora, amateur Jing Yan, and Jessica Speechley at -3 (T11).  But the day belonged to the golfer who was most recently ranked 11th in her LPGA Class of 2012.  It just goes to show that someone whose previous best finish as a professional was her September 2012 Symetra Classic victory on the LPGA's developmental tour has it in her to be beat one of the best players in the world on any given Sunday.  Let's hope the Super Bowl is as exciting as this finish was!

[Update 1 (2/3/14, 5:31 am:  Lee gets the Golf Babes treatment!]

1 comment:

Colin N.Z (ZL1BI) said...

It was an exciting finish the final group all had their chances on the back 9. It's hard to get into a tournament just following a leaderboard and Twitter. No surprise yes we do get the Super Bowl live here tomorrow and free to air!!