Ji clinches LPGA tourney

Ji Eun-hee of South Korea poses with the trophy after winning the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions at Tranquilo Golf Course at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, Sunday. — AFP

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida — Ji Eun-hee won the LPGA Tournament of Champions Sunday, firing a one-under par 70 for a two-shot triumph over fellow South Korean Lee Mi-rim.

On a day when chillier temperatures and gusty winds made life more difficult at the Four Seasons Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, Ji shook off back-to-back opening bogeys to seize her fifth LPGA title.

The 32-year-old, a former US Women’s Open champion whose 2017 Swinging Skirts Taiwan triumph saw her end an eight-year title drought, has now won at least one tournament in three straight seasons.

She started the day tied for the lead with New Zealand’s former world No. 1 Lydia Ko and they remained tied atop the board after nine holes.

But Ko’s challenge faded with a double-bogey at 13, promptly followed by a bogey at 14. She made her only birdie of the day at the 16th, but a disappointing day ended on a down note when Ko was in the hazard at the par-3 18th on the way to another double-bogey and a six-over 77.

That left her in eighth place, seven shots adrift.

Ji finished with five birdies and four bogeys on the day. Lee applied some pressure with birdies at the 10th, 13th and 16th that moved her to 12-under and that’s where she finished after her three-under 68.

A bogey at 15 dropped Ji to 13-under, but she responded with a three-foot birdie at the par-four 16th to give herself a cushion over the last two holes.

Ji said the format of the new season-opening event, which features celebrities playing alongside LPGA winners from the past two seasons, made for a relaxing week.

“It made it more fun,” she said. “I didn’t get nervous.”

American Nelly Korda finished third, balancing two bogeys and two birdies in her even par 71 for 273.

Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn and China’s Feng Shanshan shared fourth on 274. — AFP