After a long week of waiting out the weather, 54 holes was not enough to decide the 14th annual Kingsmill Championship.
Ariya Jutanugarn, In Gee Chun and Nasa Hataoka all posted 14-under to extend to a three-way playoff.
On the first playoff, the par-4 18th, Jutanugarn was second to play and made a 20-foot birdie putt. Hataoka responded with an 8-footer to match and extend to a second playoff hole.
Chun was first to putt and was unable to make birdie so it was down to two.
On the second playoff hole, Ariya Jutanugarn drilled a 15-footer to claim her first win of the season and eighth of her career. Hataoka went long on her approach and was unable to match Jutanugarn. It was her second win at the River Course. Jutanugarn also won the Kingsmill Championship in 2016.
Jutanugarn's have now won two of the last four tournaments on the LPGA. Moriya won the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in mid-April.
Brooke Henderson Comes Up Just Short
Brooke Henderson started and ended her day with a flurry of birdies to post a 6-under, 65 to jump from T8 to fourth place at 13-under, one short of getting into a playoff.
“I had great energy today, I started off with three birdies,” said a very happy Henderson. “I felt like I could really go low, which is a great feeling, but I kind of leveled off for a bit and then finished with four birdies on the back, which was awesome.”
Henderson made birdies on holes one, two and three and then capped her day with birdies on 15, 16 and 17.
Henderson got herself out of a mini slump since winning the LOTTE Championship in Hawaii.
“I feel like my game is in a great spot, ball-striking my game is in a great place,” said Henderson, who will take a rare week off. “I’m going to head to Florida to practice and get ready for the U.S. Women’s Open, but I made some putts this week so that’s a great feeling.”
Sandra Gal Working with Cameron McCormick; Goes Left-Hand Low
Sandra Gal spent last week at THE PLAYERS Championship as a special guest of the PGA TOUR. She even squeezed in a lesson with her new coach, Cameron McCormick.
He suggested she switch her putting grip to left-hand low and it seems to have worked. Gal turned in three under-par rounds to finish in a tie for 10th.
Gal attempted 30 or fewer putts in all three rounds including 28 on Sunday.
“I just needed to make a change, I think I’m a good putter, but it just wasn’t consistent enough,” explained Gal. “He was the one suggesting left hand low and actually Marilynn Smith (LPGA founder) was also pushing me so I’ve been bombarded from both sides to make the switch.”
Rising Japanese Star Has Best Finish
Rising Japanese star, Nasa Hataoka, had the best week of her young career. The 19-year-old made a hole-in-one on Thursday in the first round and then turned in the best finish of her career, a tie for second.
"I know Nasa is great, she has a lot of talent," said Ariya Jutanugarn in the media center. "I know she will win (on the LPGA) soon."
Incredibly, Hataoka did not make a bogey the entire week. She went 54 holes without a bogey on her scorecard.
"The approach shots were really good this week, I can't believe I played in a playoff at such an early stage in my career," said Hataoka. "I'm just going to try to keep going for the rest of the year."
Players Talk Upcoming U.S. Women's Open
The countdown to the U.S. Women's Open is now down to two weeks and players were well aware of how quickly the second major of the year is approaching as the Kingsmill Championship wrapped up. It's important to peak in advance of the biggest purse in women's golf and Megan Khang is doing exactly that. She turned in three rounds of 67 at the Kingsmill Championship to finish fifth.
"When I hear the words U.S. Women's Open, it's a wow," said Khang. "I love playing in all the USGA events, when we go there we are just treated like royalty."
For Khang, the Volvik Championship next week will be all about building confidence for the major.
"You have to stick to your game plan at the Open even though it is hard to do," said Khang. "It's par golf and then attack when you can."
Danielle Kang, who finished T17 this week, echoed Khang's sentiments.
"It's a very prestigious event, it's what everyone gets ready for all year," said Kang. "You know the USGA is going to make it a test and I just can't wait."
Kang played in her first U.S. Women's Open at the age of 14 when it was held at Pine Needles.
"The courses they put us on are incredible, Black Wolf Run is one of my favorites, of course we've played Pinehurst and I'm excited to go to Shoal Creek and see what it is like," said Kang. "When you go to the U.S. Open it feels very grand."
The Volvik Championship in Ann Arbor, Michigan is the final tune up next week.
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