Minjee Lee captured her third career win on the LPGA Tour on Sunday at the Blue Bay LPGA where the 20-year-old held off a charging Ariya Jutanugarn for her second win of the season. Lee carded a two-under par, 70 to win by one-stroke at 13-under par, one ahead of Jessica Korda and two-strokes ahead of Jutanugarn.
“Obviously because I won, I'm very happy right now,” Lee told the media. “But yeah, going into the final round, I knew that it was going to be a good fight today. So yeah, I think yeah, if we kept trading scores, yeah, it was a good fight out there, and I fought to the end.”
Lee held both the first and second round leads, which she extended to six-strokes heading into the weekend. But Korda came from seven-strokes back to catch Lee who carded a 73, putting the pair in a share of the 54-hole lead. Lee immediately retook the lead on Sunday, making birdie at the first hole to pull ahead of her playing partners, Korda and Jutanugarn. At the par three, seventh hole a birdie by Lee and bogey by Korda extended her lead to three.
But it was Jutanugarn who was ready to make a move. Starting her day two-back of the lead, the world No.2 was unable to make up any ground on the front nine, going out in Even par. But on the back Jutanugarn slowly began closing in on Lee, making birdies at the 11th and 14th holes. Then at the par three, 17th hole with the group each looking at a putt for birdie, Jutanugarn was the only one to convert. This putt would prove critical as Lee, with adrenaline pumping, sent her birdie putt nearly eight feet past the hole and made her only bogey of the day.
Jutanugarn and Lee stood on the final tee in a share of the lead at 12-under par with Korda trailing by one at 11-under par.
The par five, 18th was generous to players all week, including Jutanugarn who birdied the par five, 18th the first three rounds and with her length could easily make eagle. Without driver in the bag, the long-hitter went with a 3-wood but pulled her tee shot left into the water and went on to make bogey. Korda’s tee shot safely found the fairway to enable her to go for the green in two in hopes of making eagle. But her ball rolled out through the back of the green and Korda was only able to make birdie, not enough to catch Lee who made birdie at the last to win by one for her second victory of 2016.
“I knew that I had a good opportunity but I was getting ahead of myself. I knew that either Jess was going to make birdie, was probably going to make birdie, and so I thought to myself, I need to make birdie here,” said Lee. “I just put myself in good spots and then yeah, I ended up making birdie. Yeah, just stuck to my game plan.”
Lee also won the 2016 LOTTE Championship in Hawaii and the 2015 Kingsmill Championship.
Korda carded a final round one-under par, 71 to finish solo second for her best finish of 2016. She’ll look to carry that momentum into next week’s Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia where she is defending champion.
“I have three events left. I'm going to go back and rest right now. Next week is another hot week and then I have Japan and CME,” Korda said about the remainder of her season. “So I would say that, you know, looking back at this week, I think considering we had zero preparation for the tournament and came in on Wednesday, I think I would have taken a second place if you would have told me that that's what I would have gotten.”
Korda and players who competed in last week’s LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship arrived on-site for the Blue Bay LPGA on Wednesday due to a typhoon in the area.
Jutangarn posted a final round two-under par, 70 to finish third for her 14th top-10 finish of the year, including her five victories.