Buhai captures LPGA ShopRite title

Buhai captures LPGA ShopRite title

NEW YORK:

South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai, the reigning Women’s British Open champion, fired her second consecutive six-under par 65 on Sunday to win the ShopRite LPGA Classic by one stroke.

The 34-year-old from Johannesburg, who began the day three off the pace, finished 72 holes on 14-under 199 at Seaview in Galloway, New Jersey, to edge South Korea’s Kim Hyo-joo.

Kim needed an eagle at the par-5 18th to force a playoff but her pitch stopped inches from the hole to leave her in second place.

“At no point did I think it was mine until it was really confirmed,” Buhai said. “I did really well to stay mentally in it, stuck to my processes.

“I didn’t get ahead of myself and think of the outcome at all. I just trusted the one thing I was trying to do in my golf swing and hopefully that could take care of it.”

While it was Buhai’s first LPGA triumph on US soil, it was her fourth worldwide victory in the past 10 months, including March’s South African Women’s Open, last December’s Women’s Australian Open and her major breakthrough last August at Muirfield in Scotland.

“It’s definitely the best golf I’ve ever played in my career,” Buhai said. “Experience only comes from experience and I put myself in that position four times in the last eight months. Every time you get a little more comfortable.”

China’s Liu Yan was third on 202 with Sweden’s Daniela Holmqvist and Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen sharing fourth on 203.

Holmqvist began the day with a one-stroke lead over Kim but struggled with three bogeys and three birdies on the front nine.

That opened the door for Buhai, who birdied four of the first five holes to leap into the lead.

After sinking a 10-foot birdie putt on the first hole, Buhai dropped her approaches inches from the hole to set up tap-in birdies at the second and fourth holes, then made a long putt from just off the fifth green.

“I got off to such a good start and that putt on five was a ‘Hallelujah’ and I was like, ‘Those things need to happen for you to win,'” Buhai said.

Buhai sank another short birdie putt at the eighth after another great approach and reached the turn with a two-stroke advantage.

But Buhai stumbled with a bogey at the par-3 11th and Kim, who answered a bogey at the second with birdies at three and four, began the back nine with a birdie to pull level for the lead at 12-under.

Buhai answered with a birdie at the 13th and Kim made a three-putt bogey at 12 to restore the South African’s two-shot edge.

Kim birdied the par-3 17th to pull within one of Buhai, but the South African pitched to three feet at the par-5 18th and tapped in for birdie and a two-stroke lead.

Kim came up short of the green and when her tension-packed pitch stopped inches left of the hole, Buhai had the triumph.

Many of the LPGA’s top players will tee off again in New Jersey in two weeks at the next women’s major, the Women’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol.


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