A lip-out from four feet on the 71st hole has seen Minjee Lee come up one shot short of a third Major championship at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in Maryland.
A clutch two-putt from the back fringe secured Korea’s In Gee Chun (75) a wire-to-wire win and her third Major title at Congressional Country Club, her 72-hole total of five-under one stroke ahead of Lee and American Lexi Thompson (73).
Thompson had the opportunity to force a playoff with a birdie putt on the 18th hole but her sliding left-to-right effort was always on the low side of the hole, Chun and Aussie caddie Dean Herden absorbing the enormity of the moment to make a par putt from five feet and complete an emotional victory.
Seeking a second straight Major following her US Women’s Open triumph three weeks ago, Lee began the final round six shots back of Chun but found herself eight behind after just two holes.
For the second day in a row the 26-year-old bogeyed both opening holes but soon began to turn things around.
As Congressional’s Blue Course continued to firm up, birdies at five and nine got Lee back to square at the turn, a birdie at 11 bringing the top of the leaderboard within view.
Par-saving putts at 12 and 13 and a sand save at 15 kept her in the hunt and then a birdie at the par-5 16th brought her clearly into the championship picture.
Lee’s second shot into 16 brushed past the side of the hole to set up an eagle chance, her two-putt for birdie helping to edge closer to Chun and Thompson who were tied at five-under.
A three-putt on 17 would prove costly, however.
After finding the left side of the green with her approach, Lee ran her first putt four feet past and then lipped out her par putt on the low side of the hole to drop back to three-under.
The West Australian completed her championship with a brilliant approach to three feet at 18 and made birdie for a two-under 70 that would give her the clubhouse lead at four-under.
“I didn’t think it was going to be that quick down that hill,” Lee said of her first putt on 17.
“It ran four feet by, and then I read it a little left to right, and my caddie read it a little bit straighter.
“It missed on the low side. Just misread.
“I had my eye on the leaderboard the whole day. I followed it pretty much every single hole when I could see it, so I knew exactly which position I was in.
“I knew coming down 18 maybe a birdie would get me close because I did bogey 17.
“I gave it a good shot today.”
Lee will now enjoy a three-week break at home in Dallas before embarking on her first defence of a major championship title at the Amundi Evian Championship in France from July 21-24.
No.1 in the Race to CME Globe standings, Lee has two wins and two top-fives in her past five starts in a major to lay claim as the best player in women’s golf right now.
“I think I’m contending,” Lee laughed when asked of her claims to the No.1 position.
“You know, I still want to be humble, stay humble, but I want to think that I’m hard to beat right now.”
Thompson’s bogey at 17 would give Chun a one-shot lead heading to the 72nd hole, a lead she was able to protect with a pressure-packed two-putt from the back edge.
The champion three years ago, Hannah Green had three bogeys in her first five holes in a final round of three-over 75 to finish tied for fifth as Stephanie Kyriacou recorded her best finish in a major championship.
Tied for 13th at the AIG Women’s Open last year, Kyriacou birdied her final three holes for a fourth straight round of even-par 72 and a tie for 10th.
Sarah Kemp was the only other Australian to make the cut, closing with 16 pars and two bogeys in a two-over 74 and a share of 40th.
KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland
Winner In Gee Chun 64-69-75-75—283 $US1.35m
T2 Minjee Lee 73-68-73-70—284 $718,826
T5 Hannah Green 71-69-72-75—287 $274,165.40
T10 Stephanie Kyriacou 72-72-72-72—288 $155,464.16
T40 Sarah Kemp 73-74-72-74—293
T46 Lydia Ko 72-67-76-79—294
MC Katherine Kirk 74-76—150
MC Su Oh 75-75—150
MC Sarah Jane Smith 78-73—151