The climax of the JM Eagle LA Championship befit a Hollywood-scripted show.
The logjam at the top of the leaderboard oscillated, with up to a five-way tie at one point down the stretch Sunday at Wilshire Country Club in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. In the end, a three-way playoff emerged at nine-under par between Aussie superstar Hannah Green, Aditi Ashok and Xiyu Lin, marking back-to-back playoffs on the LPGA Tour.
Green, 26, won with a par over Lin on the second playoff hole for her third career victory. It’s the West Australian’s first since the 2019 Cambia Portland Classic.
“It’s been a long few years, and I played really well last year, but getting across the line has been really difficult,” Green said with tears in her eyes after shooting a two-under 69.
“I’m really proud of myself for hanging in there because I really didn’t think that I’d be in it with how I was playing and making so many putts.”
That included burying a 25-foot putt on the 72nd hole to get into the playoff. On a day, to that point, where she had made just one birdie and 16 pars, it was a welcome relief. While a conversation with an LPGA sports psychologist earlier in the week gave Green tools to stay patient, it couldn’t solve the perplexing Poa annua grass.
Green overanalyzed their speeds with memories of previous years at Wilshire coursing through her mind. She brought her caddie, Nate Blasko, for an extra set of eyes to agree on where to aim.
“It was nice to have that confidence that I was seeing the correct line, and yeah, just stroked it and it went perfectly in the hole,” Green explained.
— Golf Australia ⛳️ (@GolfAust) May 1, 2023
They returned to the par-3 18th for the first playoff hole, Lin and Ashok also having birdied it in regulation to find themselves advancing to extra holes. Lin and Green birdied again to advance to another playoff hole, the 18th once more. This time, however, Lin gave herself a problematic second shot in the sand, opening the door for Green to two-putt for the win.
With the victory, Green became the second Australian to win over the LPGA’s past three events, joining Grace Kim’s breakthrough title at the Lotte Championship two weeks ago.
“I think it just motivates us to continue to try to win and represent Australia and do our best every week,” Green said. “I think it’s really exciting things ahead for all of us.”
For Ashok and Lin, their maiden LPGA titles will have to wait. Ashok’s runner-up is the best finish of her tour career. The seven-year veteran almost became the first winner from India in the LPGA’s history. But, instead, the four-time LET champ remained upbeat about the strong finish and her comfort level under near-lead pressure.
“I’ve never played in this position on the LPGA, so to be near the lead on the first day, kind of stay there the whole tournament … the competition is just so deep out here,” Ashok said. “Ten people have a good tournament, but only one can win. I’m happy with the way I played.”
Lin, entering her 10th year on tour, posted her third second-place finish in her last 11 starts. In a sign of this stretch being an evolution of her game, it’s the fourth runner-up of her career in 201 starts. In a positive sign for Lin and Ashok, Green finished runner-up at Wilshire in 2022 before winning this year.
The playoff door, however, opened with crucial missteps from those who could have gotten into the clubhouse at 10-under. Ruoning Yin had an opportunity to sweep the tour’s SoCal Swing, having won the DIO Implant Open at the start of the month. She stood in prime position to take her second LPGA title on the 17th tee. Instead, she finished bogey-bogey to close the weekend at eight-under with a final-round 67.
Cheyenne Knight, the overnight leader, had a hybrid in hand from the fairway going for the par-5 15th in two at nine-under following a birdie on No.14. But, with momentum at her back, Knight watched her ball landed in the concrete creek short of the green and soar out of bounds, settling for a double-bogey. The 2019 VOA Classic winner never recovered, posting a two-over 73 Sundau to end up at seven-under for the week.
— Karrie Webb AO (@Karrie_Webb) May 1, 2023
“Just a bad swing on 15 that cost me,” Knight said. “I wanted to go for the green, and I went for it the other day when it [the tee] was up, and it was just a bad swing.”
Nelly Korda’s closing 67 had her finish the week at seven-under, earning a T-6 result for Korda’s sixth top-10 in seven starts in 2023. Her staying power at the top of leaderboards this year is fuelled by the fact that she’s posted even par or better in 31 of 32 rounds this season. However, the No.1 player in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings remains in search of her first victory of 2023.
That trophy looks good in your hands, Hannah! 🏆
— LPGA (@LPGA) May 1, 2023
Green explained that the victory frees up the pressure on the rest of the year for the 2019 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner. Now, she eyes what could happen going forward. After all, her previous two victories came over a six-start stretch in 2019.
“I feel like this is just going to kick start remembering how to – like learning to win. It’s tough to win golf tournaments. Sometimes you can play your best golf and it not be good enough. You’ve just got to hang in there.”