BEIJING - Australia's Minjee Lee beat back stiff competition from rivals to land her third LPGA victory with a total 13-under-par, two shots ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn and seven ahead of Pornanong Phatlum at the Blue Bay tournament on China's Hainan Island on Sunday.
Lee carded a two-under par 70 to win by one stroke at 13-under par 275, one ahead of Jessica Korda on the par-72 course.
Lee and Korda shared the leaderboard top spot heading into the final round, but the 20-year-old from Perth edged ahead of the American Sunday, firing a birdie at the first hole.
At the par-three seventh hole a birdie by Lee and a bogey by Korda extended that lead to three and the Australian closed out the tournament with rounds of 65-67-73-70 for a total of 275.
Lee is projected to move up in the Rolex Women's World Golf rankings after her Blue Bay win. Having pocketed the $315,000 first prize, she has almost $2 million in career earnings since turning professional in 2014.
"I feel like I've been playing really solid golf the whole year. I know I won in Hawaii, but getting a win this week, it feels really good. Just really happy," said Lee on her win. "I'm glad I came out on top but it was a really good fight out there."
Korda can take heart in her performance, carding 67-72-66-71 and a total of 276 for her best finish of 2016, as she prepares for the SIME Darby LPGA in Malaysia where she is defending champion.
Ariya posted a final round two-under par 70 to finish third for her 14th top ten finish of the year, including five victories. She looked poised to win her sixth tournament of the year when she made a birdie on the par-3, 17th to pull into a tie for the lead with Minjee Lee. However, an errant tee shot on the 18th hole landed the Thai in the water resulting in a bogey six
Ariya’s third-place earnings of $139,681 moved her to No. 1 on the money list ahead of Lydia Ko. She also moved into the top position in the Race to CME Globe point standings and extended her lead in the Rolex Player of the Year to 13 points.
Pornanong Phatlum (file photo)
Thai No 2 Pornanong shot an even par to settle with a 282.
“I made not much birdies today. The pins are kind of hard to get close to the pin today. [...] I did play safe today but I didn’t putt good today. Couldn’t make birdie much. [...] It’s a good week and finish good this week. Because I didn’t play good for like a couple months, so this week, top-10, so that’s very great,” said Pornanong after her second best finish this season.