In a dramatic conclusion to the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship it was Carlota Ciganda who came out on top. Sunday, the 2012 rookie came from five-strokes back of 54-hole leader Alison Lee and defeated her in a playoff with a birdie on the first extra hole to capture her first victory on the LPGA Tour. Ciganda carded a final round two-under par, 70 to finish in a tie with Lee at 10-under par. Shanshan Feng and Min-Sun Kim finished in a share of third at eight-under par. Brittany Lang and Mi Jung Hur round out the top-5 at seven-under par.
“It means the world me. It's pretty nice to win here in Korea where women's golf is so big,” Ciganda told the media. “It's been a long journey, but at the same time it's really nice to get the win. I love competing and playing and being an athlete. I couldn't ask for a better life.”
Ciganda entered the final round at eight-under par, five-strokes behind Lee but got off to a hot start, going out in 31 to close the gap on Lee who carded four bogeys in a five-hole stretch. At the 10th hole, Ciganda held a commanding five-stroke lead over Lee who had led by three to start the day.
“To be honest, I didn't look at the leaderboard until I think it was on No. 12. I saw I was winning by 5. I wasn't expecting that. I was thinking the winning number maybe 15-under today,” said Ciganda. “Obviously I started playing very solid and the day wasn't easy. I just was thinking to myself, Just stay in the present. Try to hit the next shot the best I can.”
But Ciganda’s nearly flawless round came to an end at the par four, 14th hole where she struggled to get out of the greenside bunker and left her ball on the grassy upslope which resulted in a double bogey.
“To be honest, I was just thinking about each shot. When I made that double I was thinking about the result,” Ciganda said. “Obviously, yeah, I'm not going to lie, I was really nervous on the last three, four holes. But I was positive. I just tried my best and I tried to play each shot the best I could. So it's not that I was giving up or anything. It's very special because it's been tough the last two years. At the same time, I like fighting and everything.”
While Ciganda continued to struggle and made another bogey at the par four, 16th hole, Lee began to hit her stride. She posted her first birdie of the day at the par four, 15th hole to pull within one of Ciganda.
Just five holes prior Lee trailed Ciganda by five.
Then, at the par three, 17th Lee hit her tee shot to within 12-feet and drained the putt for birdie to tie Ciganda at 11-under par. But Ciganda continued to struggle up ahead at the par five, 18th with a wayward approach that found the far left rough near and she was left with a long putt to get up and down. Ciganda failed to save par, falling one-back of Lee who was standing in the fairway at the 72nd hole.
Needing just par to win, Lee’s approach came up short of the green and bounced into the water but was able to get up and down for bogey to force a playoff. The pair returned to the 18th hole where Lee's second shot found the rough and left her with limited options into the green. Her approach ran through the back of the green and back into the rough. Ciganda responded by sticking her approach to about eight feet short of the hole, giving her nearly the same putt Lee made to send the pair to extra holes. But Lee had one last opportunity to turn the tide in her favor and relied on the incredible short game she had displayed all week long. Her chip landed no more than two inches from the hole and Ciganda drained her putt for birdie to defeat Lee.
Since winning the bronze medal in Rio, Feng has played her best golf of the year. Feng’s third place finish this week in Korea is her fourth consecutive top-four finish since the Olympics.