Fri. Jul 12th, 2024

Yang, 34, wins Women’s PGA for first major title

By admin Jul1,2024


Jun 23, 2024, 07:19 PM ET

SAMAMMISH, Wash. — Standing in the 18th fairway, Amy Yang leaned over to caddie Jan Meierling and acknowledged the anxiety and nerves she carried for the previous 17 holes.

“This has been the longest 18 holes I’ve ever played in my career,” Yang told Meierling.

After years of near misses in the majors, Yang finally enjoyed the celebration she’d long sought: standing on the 18th green, doused in Champagne by her peers as a major champion.

“At one point I thought, ‘Will I ever win a major championship before I retire?'” Yang said. “And I finally did it and it’s just amazing.”

Steady over four days at demanding, tree-lined Sahalee, Yang built a huge lead and survived a couple of late mistakes to win her long-awaited major title on Sunday, a 3-shot victory in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

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Yang closed with an even-par 72 to finish at 7-under 281. She was nearly flawless for the first 15 holes and reached 10 under for the tournament for a 7-shot lead before running into a little bit of trouble. But none of her pursuers was able to mount a significant charge.

At age 34, Yang is the oldest major winner on the LPGA Tour since Angela Stanford won the 2018 Evian Championship at age 40. Anna Nordqvist had recently turned 34 when she won the Women’s British Open in 2021.

This was Yang’s 75th major start, the most before a player’s first major title since Stanford, who was playing her 76th. As she spoke to reporters, a group of children waited outside the interview tent, chanting “Amy” and seeking an autograph from the newest major champ.

“It’s been incredible all this week. Everyone was rooting for me. I want to go sign some autographs for them,” Yang said.

Yang’s sixth LPGA victory was her first since last year’s CME Group Tour Championship, which was also the most recent victory by a South Korean player. She earned a spot in the Paris Olympics, where she will represent South Korea for the third time.

“The first half of the year she was kind of like in between. Motivation is kind of a roller-coaster ride for her because she’s done a lot of things, but there’s definitely some goals she wants to accomplish, this being one of them,” Meierling said. “These weeks get her reinvigorated.”

Lilia Vu and Jin Young Ko each shot 71 to tie for second at 4 under. Vu shot three rounds under par but couldn’t overcome a 75 in the first round.

“If [you] hit like Amy, you can win, too,” Ko said.

At age 34, Amy Yang is the oldest major winner on the LPGA Tour since Angela Stanford won the 2018 Evian Championship at age 40. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Twice earlier in her career, Yang held the 54-hole lead in a major only to fall short. At the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst, Yang was tied with Michelle Wie going into the final round but shot 74 as Wie won. A year later in the same tournament at Lancaster Country Club, Yang had a 3-shot advantage, but In Gee Chun shot 66 to win by 1.

Nine times, Yang finished second, third or fourth in a major without a title. Until now.

“Golf is really just like a fight against myself. I think I proved myself that I can compete and I can do this,” she said.

Yang was remarkably steady until her final few holes. She made five bogeys over her first 69 holes before she three-putted the 16th. Then she pushed her tee shot on the par-3 17th well right, and it bounced into a lake, leading to double bogey.

Yang steadied herself with a perfect tee shot on the par-5 18th, leading to a two-putt par and the Champagne celebration.

Yang held a 2-shot advantage when she stepped to the first tee on a cooler Sunday after three straight days of above-average temperatures. The front nine saw breezes whistle through the towering trees to the point play had to be paused so pollen buds could be blown off the greens.

Yang was unfazed. By the time she made the turn, she led by 5. Yang birdied the first hole, chipped in for birdie from 23 yards off the green on the fifth and dropped a 7-foot birdie putt on the eighth — the toughest hole on the course — to move to 9 under.

When she hit into the trees on No. 10 and made bogey, Yang responded with a birdie at the 11th and made her final birdie at the 13th.

Playing in the final group with Yang, Lauren Hartlage had a chance to tie the lead at 8 under, but her 5-foot birdie try on the par-5 sixth hole caught the left edge, spun around the cup and stayed out. Hartlage made double bogeys at Nos. 7 and 8 and made the turn 6 shots behind. She tied for fifth at 3 under, her best career finish.

There was only one round in the 60s on the final day — Japan’s Mao Saigo shot 67 to finish at 2 under, tied for seventh.

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