Mirim Lee snatched a dramatic victory in a three-way finish at the ANA Inspiration in California as she edged out long-time leader Nelly Korda and Brooke Henderson with a birdie at the first play-off hole.
The South Korean chipped in three times on Sunday, the last one for an eagle on the 18th. It was another wild finish in the LPGA major that moved from the first weekend of April to the 100-degree heat of September, and no one was more surprised than the 29-year-old Lee.
She was never in the lead at any point until she calmly holed a five-foot birdie putt on the first play-off hole, again the 18th, to beat Nelly Korda and Brooke Henderson, who each had the lead on the back nine.
Lee pitched in from long range for par on the 16th, dropped a shot on the next hole and appeared to be out of it until her chip from behind the 18th green rammed against the pin and dropped for eagle and a five-under 67.
Korda, the 22-year-old American going for her first major, had a two-shot lead with four holes to play and couldn’t hold it. With a one-shot lead going to the par-five 18th, Korda missed the fairway, had to lay up and missed the green to the right, having to scramble for par and a 69 just to match Lee at 15-under.
Henderson lost the lead with a double bogey on the 13th hole that nearly cost her. But she birdied the 16th and was saved by the wall, a blue-covered structure behind the 18th that kept her second shot on the 18th from running through the green and into the water behind the island green. She got up-and-down for birdie and a 69.
On the first extra hole, Korda again missed the fairway and had to lay up, and her wedge was 25 feet short for a birdie putt that never had a chance. Henderson’s second shot came up just short, and she used putter for her eagle attempt that rolled out some sevenfeet past. Her birdie putt missed on the left side.
Lee hit a five-wood just over the back of the putting surface, chipped to five feet and made the winner. Even with world No 1 Ko Jin-young and US Women’s Open champion Jeongeun Lee staying home because of travel concerns with the coronavirus, Lee made it 10 consecutive years with a South Korea winning a major.