TOGO, AICHI PREF. – Yukari Baba managed a par on the last hole to win the Japan Women’s Open by one stroke Sunday for her first major title.
Tied for the lead at the 18th tee, Baba took advantage of a brilliant second shot to par while Ryu needed three shots to reach the green and narrowly missed her par attempt at Nagoya Golf Club’s famed Wago Course.
Baba shot a 6-over 76 in the final round to total 12-over 292, the second-worst winning score in the history of the Japan LPGA Tour.
Miyuki Shimabukuro won the 2001 Japan Women’s Open with a 14-over 302 total at Muroran Golf Club in Hokkaido.
Baba, known as the smallest player on the tour at 149 cm, struggled on the front nine with one birdie against four bogeys and one double bogey.
But after the turn, the 28-year-old limited herself to one bogey on a course that features tight fairways and killer roughs.
“I made so many mistakes on the front nine, and I asked myself what the heck I was doing,” Baba said. “But I managed to regroup on the back. It’s unbelievable that I got my first tour win in three years at a major tournament.”
Baba pocketed 28 million yen from the ¥140 million purse for her third career title.
Money leader Ahn Sun Ju (73) and Ryu (75) shared second place.
U.S. LPGA star Ai Miyazato stayed in contention for most of the day before fading with five bogeys over the last seven holes. She was alone in sixth at 15 over after a 76.
Mika Miyazato, the 2010 champion, carded a disastrous 81 to drop into a share of 20th at 21 over.
Hoey takes lead
Michael Hoey moved closer to giving Northern Ireland another big golf victory by seizing a three-shot lead after the third round of the Dunhill Links Championship on Saturday.
The 32-year-old Hoey built on the overnight lead he shared with England’s Tommy Fleetwood by making five birdies and an eagle in a 6-under 66 at Carnoustie, moving to 18 under and putting a host of world-class names in the shade in the $5 million event.
“My short game was unbelievable, the best it’s ever been,” said Hoey, whose nearest challenger is compatriot Graeme McDowell after his third straight 67. “I’m definitely getting all the breaks as well. Everything has just gone my way so far.”
Northern Ireland has become the epicenter of world golf after major championship wins by Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy over the past 15 months.
Hoey, ranked No. 271, is rarely mentioned in the same breath as his three more illustrious compatriots but as a former British Amateur champion, he has always had the potential.
“He’s a supremely talented player, always has been,” McIlroy said. “For him, it’s been a mental thing but he obviously has a clear head and is playing very well.”