South Korean rookie Ryu captures LPGA NW Arkansas title

WASHINGTON: South Korean rookie Ryu Hae-ran won her first LPGA title on Sunday, making four birdies and an eagle on the back nine Sunday to capture the NW Arkansas Championship.

The 22-year-old from Seoul fought off the challenge from a host of rivals and overcame struggles at the start to fire a five-under par 66.

That was good enough to finish the 54-hole event on 19-under 194 and defeat Sweden's Linnea Strom by three strokes at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas.

"Before the season, I wanted to get rookie of the year but now I got a bonus, winner on the LPGA Tour" Ryu said. "Now it's all meaningful."

South Koreans Kim Sei-young and Jenny Shin, Japanese rookie Yuna Nishimura and Filipino Bianca Pagdanganan shared third on 198 with Australian Hannah Green another stroke adrift.

Overnight leader Ryu opened with a birdie but made bogeys at the par-5 second and par-4 fifth holes and found herself in a trophy fight as she made the turn two off the pace.

"First nine holes I felt so bad," Ryu said. "First three holes my iron shot is going too far. Always my ball is hit over the pin and I can't try at birdie.

"But after the ninth hole I refocus for my iron distance. I tried more to bring my swing and made so many birdies and I got it."

Ryu birdied the 10th and 12th, then dropped her 7-iron approach inches from the hole at the par-5 14th to set up a tap-in eagle. She followed with birdies at 16 and 18 to seal the triumph.

World number 37 Ryu became the fifth LPGA rookie champion this year, a tour record, and only the second LPGA wire-to-wire winner this season after Brooke Henderson at the Tournament of Champions.

Ryu, a five-time Korean LPGA tour winner and LPGA Q-school medalist, had five previous top-10 finishes this year, including eighth at the US Women's Open at Pebble Beach.

Strom charged late, going four-under in the last five holes to shoot 64 as did Bianca, who eagled 10 and 18 in shooting six-under 29 on the back nine.

Kim shot 66 but stumbled with a bogey at 16 while Shin made bogeys at 11 and 16 in firing a 67 for her best finish of the season.

Nishimura opened and closed the back nine with birdies in a bogey-free 68 for her best LPGA result in 23 starts, sharing third nudging ahead of her fourth-place showing in last year's Japan Classic.--AFP

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