“It’s not easy to win.”
Back-and-forth lead changes, a playoff, you name it. All was in store for an action-packed final round at the Buick LPGA Shanghai. But as the sun set amidst Qizhong Garden Country Club, only one player could be victorious, and in her 159th LPGA Tour start, that player was Angel Yin. The American, who defeated Rolex Rankings No. 1 Lilia Vu in a playoff with a birdie on the first extra hole, became the season’s 12th Rolex First-Time Winner – a new record for most Rolex First-Time Winners in a single season on Tour.
Yin started the final round after sleeping on the 54-hole co-lead with Maja Stark, and found her first birdie of the day on No. 4. At that point, Vu had taken the lead at -13, and Yin’s first birdie joined her as the final groups embarked on the front nine. A bogey on six after finding the fairway bunker brought her out of the top spot, but she leapt back with a birdie on 9 to make the turn at -13. She went on to par the next seven holes until a birdie on the par-5 17th. After choosing driver on the tee of the 18th, she found another fairway bunker – but was anything but disappointed.
“I said to my caddie, this is a great lie. Everything is perfect. If I can't hit it, I just suck. So that was either this or that. I told him everything is set up for me to do it. If I can't, then that's just on me,” said Yin, made a par on the 72nd hole to card a 2-under 70 on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Vu – who was in the penultimate grouping – closed with a 4-under 68 to finish with the clubhouse lead at -14 as she awaited Yin’s final hole. Vu put on a ball-striking clinic on the front nine, notching four birdies in her first five holes until a bogey on No. 6. A crucial up-and-down on No. 8 helped her stay towards the top of the leaderboard, and as the top became more compact, Vu went birdie-bogey on Nos. 11 and 12. Her birdie on 17 meant she’d eventually face Yin in a flashback of The Chevron Championship, where the two Americans went head-to-head for the major title in a playoff in Texas.
Both players hit the fairway in the playoff, and both had birdie look from opposite directions of the pin. A miss by Vu meant it came down to Yin’s final stroke, to seal the deal in front of her mother’s home country fans. As the ball dropped, Yin felt the relief of finding the winner’s circle as a professional for the first time since 2017.
“Honestly, I'm still living in the moment so much that I haven't been able to draw on the past to think about the journey and where I am right now. I'm still so much in the present, and I think sometime golf you have to be like that. That's where I am right now. If I can just give you an answer that's in the back of my head, it's always very special, and throughout the round I was thinking to myself, it's not easy to win. It's not easy to win. Just very grateful. Honestly, 18 that bunker where I was in, anything could have happened, but I was very fortunate to have a very good lie and was able to hit a good shot and everything played out the way it played out,” said Yin. “It's been a special week.”
“I made a lot of mistakes today, to be honest, and I felt like this was definitely not my A-game, but I knew that the more I play the golf course the better I get at it, and I knew I had a good chance today,” admitted Vu. “Today was just Angel's day. I'm happy for her.”
Five players finished in a tie for third, including Hye-Jin Choi, who was first to close at -13 after an 8-under 64, her lowest 18-hole score since her career-best 63 in the second round of the 2022 CPKC Women’s Open. Choi went bogey-free, notching eight birdies including four straight from Nos. 8-11. Yu Liu earned her third-straight top-10 finish in the Buick LPGA Shanghai, and ended the week as the top player from the People’s Rep. of China among 22 featured in the field.
Five players tied for eighth, including Swedes Stark and Madelene Sagstrom. Stark, who held the first-, second- and third-round leads/co-leads, shot an even-par 72 in a day that saw one double bogey, three bogeys and five birdies. Sagstrom, in the first group of the day off No. 10, turned in 30 after six birdies and ended the round with a new tournament 18-hole record, a 9-under 63, after adding three more birdies on her way in on Nos. 2, 5 and 9.
“Thursday I didn't play fantastic, and then I was getting a little bit closer Friday. I had a call with my coach and we kind of reverted back to a few different feelings with the iron shots,” said Sagstrom. “Yesterday I actually hit it really, really well but I didn't figure out the greens so I didn't make any putts. Today I hit it just as good, if not a little bit better, but I was making the putts. So I was giving myself plenty of chances and I was just feeling really good.”
Defending champion Danielle Kang finished in a tie for 17th at -9, while Rolex Rankings No. 2 Ruoning Yin finished at T41 (-4).