So Yeon Ryu, whose first LPGA win was the 2011 U. S. Women’s Open, picked up victory No. 6 on Sunday with a closing 67 at the Meijer Classic for a two-stroke triumph over Caroline Masson. Ryu, who started the final round two strokes behind Anna Nordqvist and Lee-Anne Pace, took control with a bogey-free closing stretch in which she played the last seven holes two under par, holding off a determined challenge by Lydia Ko.
Ryu, a Korean who turns 28 on June 29, also won a major at the 2017 ANA Inspiration in a playoff over Lexi Thompson and is the defending champion at this week’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. She held strong on Sunday even as Ko, Thompson and, early in the day with a course-record 62, Ariya Jutanugarn made runs at her while Masson, Nordqvist, Pace and Stanford hung in until late bogeys.
Ryu ended 72 holes at 21-under-par 267 with Masson at 269 and Ko at 270. Jacqui Concolino, Azahara Munoz, Angela Stanford, Nordqvist and Pace were at 271 with Nelly Korda, Thompson and Moriya Jutanugarn at 272. Ariya Jutanugarn was at 273.
“I was incredibly calm when I started the day,” Ryu said. “I thought this might be my day. My putting turned out to be really great.”
In fact, her entire game was really great as she averaged 276.5 yards off the tee, hit 14 greens and used only 28 putts in the final round. Perhaps most impressively, she kept her calm while others were bending to the pressure.
Ryu put things away when she made a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th hole after Masson settled for a three-putt par and Ko, who had a three-putt bogey on No. 15, missed an eagle putt on 16. Thompson’s run ended when she spun her approach shot on No. 17 back off the green and made bogey.
As they swung onto the final nine holes, Ryu and Masson were tied at 19 under par with Stanford and Pace one back, Ko and Nordqvist two behind and a half-dozen players, including Ariya Jutanugarn, four strokes of the lead. But while others made mistakes, Ryu did not make a bogey after a disappointing six on the par-5 11th hole.
Nordqvist lost all hope when she made a double bogey on No. 17 after missing the green into the back bunker. Masson, meanwhile, got second place all to herself with a 35-foot birdie putt on the final hole after a bogey on No. 14 and the failure to birdie No. 16 severely hurt her chances.
Pace never got anything going, closing with 17 pars and one bogey, while Stanford made three bogeys on the back nine.
Ko, who appears to be finding her form after a year and a half of struggles following a series of changes involving coaches, caddies and clubs, shot four rounds in the 60s and was in the hunt until she made her first bogey since Thursday when she three-putted No. 15. Still, she had to leave Michigan good about where her game stands, clearly looking like she is building on her victory earlier this year at the Mediheal Championship at Lake Merced.
After the Walmart tournament the tour heads to Kemper Lakes near Chicago for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the third major of the year. Pernilla Lindberg was a surprise winner at the ANA Inspiration while Ariya Jutanugarn gutted out a playoff victory over Hyo Joo Kim in a four-hole playoff at the U. S. women’s Open.
Coming out of Michigan, where major champions Ryu, Ko, Nordqvist, Thompson and Jutanigarn were all in the mix, the stage seems to be set for a competitive competition at the KPMG in what has been an incredibly competitive year, with Ariya Jutanugarn the only repeat winner after 16 LPGA events.
The battle for Rolex Player of the Year and the Race to the CME Globe $1 million bonus is shaping into one of the most competitive ever. It will be fun watching.