LOS ANGELES: Brooke Henderson used a brilliant putting game to become a first-time major champion on Sunday (Monday in Manila), edging world No. 1 Lydia Ko in a playoff to capture the Women’s PGA Championship.
The 18-year-old Canadian claimed the title when she rolled in a short birdie putt on the first playoff hole at the Sa-halee Country Club course near Seattle, Washington.
Henderson said the win feels like a dream.
“I don’t know whether I thought it would come true,” she said. “I’m just speechless. I don’t know what’s going on in my head right now.”
Henderson hit a superb approach on the No. 18 playoff hole as her ball landed about 20 feet inside of Ko’s ball and just three feet from the cup. Ko, 19, settled for par on the playoff hole.
“I thought I needed to do something special here because I didn’t want to go to extra [playoff]holes, especially against her,” Henderson said of her second shot in the playoff.
“I hit a pretty solid seven iron and it rolled out pretty nicely and I was able to make the putt.”
Henderson’s victory capped a fantastic day for the young guns on the LPGA Tour as the three leaders down the stretch on the final day were all 20 or younger.
Henderson closed with a six-under 65 Sunday to finish in a tie with a six-under 278 total. She had to come from be-hind to beat Ko as she forced the playoff by draining a 50-foot putt on No. 17 and then made a 20-footer for a dra-matic par-save on 18.
New Zealand’s Ko, who was seeking to win her third consecutive major championship, fired a four-under 67 on Sunday.
Ko took a one shot lead into the final round and led for most of Sunday before Henderson made a late move.
Calm under pressure
“I really didn’t feel a ton of pressure or a ton of nerves which is the key to shooting six under in a final round,” Henderson said.
Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, who was attempting to tie Nancy Lopez’s record with a fourth straight victory on the Tour, shot a five-under 66 on Sunday to finish in solo third place at five-under for the tournament.
A trio of South Koreans tied for fourth at two-under 282, comprising Lee Mi-Rim (69), Ryu So-Yeon (67), Park Hee-Young (66).
The leaderboard was dominated by South Koreans, who filled six of the top 11 spots. Gerina Piller was the best American as she finished in a tie for 12th at two-over 286, eight strokes back of Henderson and Ko.
Ko made the turn with a three-shot lead over a group of six players at two-under, but the margin was quickly trimmed to one when Henderson rolled in an eagle putt from off the green on the par-five 12th hole.
Henderson reeled off three consecutive pars before her birdie on 17, while the 20-year-old Ariya reached five-under with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17. Ko finished regulation with seven consecutive pars.