China's Ruoning wins Women's PGA Championship

NEW YORK: China's Yin Ruoning sank a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole on Sunday to win the Women's PGA Championship for her first major title.

The 20-year-old from Shanghai fired a four-under par 67 to finish 72 holes at Baltusrol on eight-under 276 and defeat Japan's Yuka Saso by one stroke.Ruoning took the US$1.5 million top prize and became only the second woman from China to win a major title after Feng Shanshan, who captured the 2012 Women's PGA crown.

"It's amazing," Yin said. "It's just unreal."Yuka, a 22-year-old Philippine-born Japanese star who won the 2021 US Women's Open, birdied the par-5 18th to match Ruoning for the lead at 7-under on the rain-soaked layout at Springfield, New Jersey.

Ruoning answered by landing her approach 10 feet from the hole and rolled in the tension-packed birdie putt for the victory in the year's second women's major tournament."After the tee shot I saw Yuka make an incredible birdie here, I knew I had to make birdie at this hole to win the championship and I'm glad I did it," Ruoning said.

An early afternoon storm halted play for almost two hours, but after play resumed Ruoning birdied the 13th and 14th to grab a share of the lead, parred the next three holes as rivals faltered, and won at the last after hitting every green in regulation in the final two rounds."For last couple days, my ball striking was perfect," Ruoning said.

"I only missed six greens in four days so I think my ball striking was pretty good."My goal for today, just no three-putts. And I did it too. I didn't think too much. Just no three-putts Because last few days I made five bogeys and four of them were three-putts."

A third-place pack on 278 included Spain's Carlota Ciganda, Sweden's Anna Nordqvist, China's Lin Xiyu, American Megan Khang and Northern Ireland's Stephanie Meadow.Japan's Ayaka Furue, South Korean Jenny Shin and American Rose Zhang shared eighth on 279.

Ruoning had joined Shanshan as the only Chinese women to win an LPGA title when she captured the LA Open in April.Among those unable to match Ruoning down the stretch was Xiyu, who shared the lead when the storm struck.

"It's pretty amazing," Xiyu said of Yin's victory. "She's young and she's so talented. She's definitely really good at dealing with pressure. It's great to see that."Ruoning rents a house in Orlando from Xiyu and said she hadn't thought about how her rent might now get higher.

"Actually, I'm thinking about buying her house right now," Ruoning said.Jenny and Ruoning were deadlocked atop the leaderboard when play resumed after the storm but seven others were within two strokes.

Yuka held the lead alone after Jenny made a bogey at the eighth and kept it until Ruoning birdied the 13th and 14th and Yuka made her fourth birdie in six holes at 15 to share the lead on 7-under, although Yuka stumbled with a bogey at 16.Xiyu found water off the tee at the par-5 18th and closed with a bogey to leave Ruoning alone in the lead.

Yuka responded with a tap-in birdie at 18 to share the lead, setting the stage for Yin's closing heroics."I actually kind of felt that I was going to make it and I made it," Yin said. "It's a very weird feeling."

She joined a list of major winners at Baltusrol that includes Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and women's icon Mickey Wright."I've got goosebumps," Ruoning said. "They're all legends. I'm glad that I can be part of it."

Ruoning hopes her victory can boost golf in China."I think it means a lot," Yin said. "I think it's going to push a lot of kids to play golf." - AFP

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