Taiwan’s Teresa Lu ended an eight-year quest for her first LPGA Tour victory as she captured the Mizuno Classic title by two shots over South Korea’s Chella Choi. Lu overcame a two-stroke deficit on Sunday and fired the low-round of the week with an 8-under 64 to finish with a three day total of 14-under-par 202.
“I’ve been waiting for this day for so long,” said Lu. “This is my first win, it’s been eight years on Tour. I’m really happy. Really nervous and really happy.
Choi and Lu were on the outside-looking-in as Sunday’s proceedings started, sitting two-shots behind a Japanese trio who were tied for the first. Choi took the early lead after carding her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 ninth hole, while Lu, who played one group behind her, made the turn at 2-under and tied for second. The Taiwan native sprinted to the outright lead with four-straight birdies on Nos. 11, 12, 13 and 14.
Choi’s only birdie on the back-nine came on the par-5 16th hole, which brought her to a tie for first with only two holes left to play, but Lu carded a birdie on the par-3 17th and took the lead again. Choi’s 30-foot birdie putt on the final hole lipped around the cup and failed to fall in, but it still wouldn’t have been enough to pull the two into a playoff as Lu sank a 12-foot birdie putt on 18 to seal the win.
“I knew I have to go lower and get more birdies otherwise I was going to get in a playoff,” said Lu of her final two holes. “It’s better not a playoff. So I focus on the birdie.”Lu played on the LPGA Tour for four years and amassed eight top-10 finishes with her best-finish coming at the 2007 NW Arkansas Championship Presented by John Q. Hammons where she finished tied for second. Lu relinquished her LPGA Tour membership in 2010 and moved to Japan to play to play full-time on the JLPGA Tour.
In 28 events in the 2013 season, Lu has tallied 13 top-10 finishes including three runner-ups. She says those experiences helped push her toward her win this week.
“Beginning of this year, I got into two playoffs and in both of them, I lose,” said Lu. “I guess I really learned from that and just tried to be calm. On today, I was very calm, except for 18.”
Choi has touched the top of the leaderboard on numerous occasions since joining the LPGA Tour in 2009 but has been poised for the a breakthrough win since the 2012 Manulife Financial LPGA Classic when she was the last to fall to American Brittany Lang in a four-way playoff that included compatriots Inbee Park and Hee Kyung Seo. She has tallied 16 top-10 finishes since then and has held the lead in two events this season including the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic and the Wegmans LPGA Championship.
Choi has grown accustomed to saying “next tournament” but says this week’s event helped her gain the confidence she needs to break into the winner’s circle.
“I think I had very good confidence today,” said Choi. “I just think, ok one putt, just one stroke. So I think birdie and focus. I don’t know why, not nervous. I think good experience for me.”
Defending champion and Rolex Rankings No. 3 Stacy Lewis was hoping for another come-from-behind victory but ultimately finished in a tie for eighth after a carding her first bogey on the par-5 18th hole.
Topics: Mizuno Classic