U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Lee6 Breaks from Pack to Capture 74th U.S. Women’s Open
June 2, 2019 | CHARLESTON, S.C.
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
Jeongeun Lee6 of the Republic of Korea broke out of a crowded leader board with three back-nine birdies and withstood some late struggles to shoot 1-under-par 70 and win the 74th U.S. Women’s Open Championship on Sunday by two strokes over a trio of players at the Country Club of Charleston.
Lee6, who turned 23 on Tuesday, earned $1 million in notching her first victory in the United States. The six-time winner in three seasons on the Korea LPGA Tour, who is in her first full-time season on the LPGA Tour, shot 70-69-69-70 for a 6-under-par total of 278.
“She couldn't imagine coming this far,” said Jennifer Kim, Lee6’s manager and translator. “She feels proud of herself, and she worked so hard.”
In the early going, seven players held a share of the lead, and there were at least five players tightly bunched as Lee6 made the turn in even-par 36, playing in the third-to-last group with Mamiko Higa of Japan. Most of the leaders struggled out of the gate, and as the final group of former Duke University teammates Celine Boutier and Yu Liu played the par-5 fifth hole, the last nine pairings of the day stood a combined 23 over par.
Lee6 assumed control with an impressive up-and-down on No. 10, hitting the flagstick for a tap-in par from 70 feet, then birdieing the difficult par-3 11th (8 feet) and the par-4 12th (5 feet). After solid two-putt pars from about 18 feet on Nos. 13 and 14, Lee6 knocked a 50-yard wedge approach to 4 feet and made birdie on the par-5 15th for a three-stroke lead. That is when she grasped the task ahead of her on the difficult closing holes.
“I was nervous starting 16, 17, and 18, and I knew that if I made all pars on those holes, I knew that I’m going to win,” said Lee6. “I know I made two bogeys, but I just didn’t want to think about it too much. I tried the best that I can.”
Boutier had the best opportunity to catch Lee6, who slipped to 6 under after missing the green on both Nos. 16 and 18. Boutier stuffed her approach on No. 16 to 3½ feet, but lipped out the birdie putt that would have brought her to 6 under. Boutier came to No. 18 still needing a birdie to tie, but she bunkered her approach, took two shots to reach the green and then lipped out her putt, making a double bogey that dropped her into a tie for fifth.
“On a scale of one to 10, [today was] probably a one,” said Boutier, 25, of France, who earned her first LPGA Tour win in January. “I feel pretty bad right now. Hopefully, I’ll learn from this. I just feel like my putter was not good all day, and I just struggled to have birdie opportunities throughout the day.”
Lexi Thompson, Angel Yin and 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu finished tied for second place, two strokes back at 4-under 280, while Boutier was in a group of five players at 3-under 281.
Lee6’s final round of 70 was her eighth under-par effort in 12 career U.S. Women’s Open rounds. Lee6 finished fifth in her championship debut in 2017 at Trump Bedminster and tied for 17th last year at Shoal Creek.
Her victory marked the 18th victory in the last 36 major championships for players from the Republic of Korea, and she is also the 11th different player in 11 years to win the U.S. Women’s Open and the ninth different player to win a major in the past nine.
Thompson, 24, was seeking to join Inbee Park as the only players to win the U.S. Women's Open and the ANA Inspiration before age 25, but she hit only six fairways and struggled to a round of 73.
Yin and Gerina Piller posted early rounds of 3-under 68 to vault up the leader board, but both had late bogeys that kept them from finishing their comebacks. Yin moved from a tie for 18th starting the day into a tie for second, while Piller moved from a tie for 22nd into a tie for fifth.
- Lydia Ko, who won the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur at age 15 en route to 15 victories on the LPGA Tour, finished in a tie for 39th place this week. But the New Zealander provided a highlight on Sunday by holing her tee shot on the difficult par-3 11th hole for the 28th ace in U.S. Women’s Open history. The perfect shot made Ko 1 under for the four days on No. 11, the reverse Redan hole, which played to a 3.44 stroke average for the week, the toughest hole on the course. “My first [ace] was at the Olympics in Rio, and then my second one is at the U.S. Women’s Open,” said Ko, who hit 6-iron on the 159-yard hole. “Maybe I should go for the career Grand Slam holes-in-one.”
- Three players made their professional debuts in this championship. Maria Fassi, 21, of Mexico, who captured the NCAA women’s individual title for the University of Arkansas two weeks ago, shot 68-70 on the weekend to finish in a tie for 12th place. Patty Tavatanakit, 19, of Thailand, who tied for fifth in last year’s Women’s Open to earn low-amateur honors, finished in a tie for 34th place in her professional debut after two years at UCLA. Jennifer Kupcho, 22, who won the NCAA individual title for Wake Forest in 2018 and defeated Fassi in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April, struggled on the weekend and finished in a tie for 62nd.
- Players from Korea have won eight U.S. Opens since 2008, while players from the USA have won three and one player from Thailand has won.
- Gerina Piller tops the list of players with the most top 10s on the LPGA Tour without a victory since 2010. Piller has 36 top-10s, while Morgan Pressel has 32 and Pornanong Phatlum has 27.
“If I’ve got to be 100 percent honest, I was just trying to make the cut and make it to the weekend. So finishing as low am is definitely a testament to the amount of support I’ve got, the amount of work I've put in, and just how much I’ve matured as a person and as a player.” – Gina Kim, 19, a rising sophomore at Duke who was tied for fourth after 36 holes and finished in a tie for 12th, eight strokes ahead of Rose Zhang, the next-closest amateur
“I really enjoyed my time here at the Country Club of Charleston. It was my first time here. I know a few of the players played here for the U.S. Women’s Amateur a few years back. I thought this was a great venue. Unfortunately for me, my golf wasn’t as great as the fun times I had here. Hopefully we can come back before I retire.” – Lydia Ko, on the venue and the experience in Charleston
“I never really grew up with her, but Jeongeun and I have the same management company. That’s how I started to hang out with her. She’s such a sweet lady. She's so ready to learn everything about LPGA. A lot of people think, if you played the other tour before, you’re not really a rookie. I think that’s not true. I’ve done it. This Tour is a whole different experience. You better speak English, you better learn so many different cultures. I’m really proud of her as a fellow competitor and the same country.” – So Yeon Ryu, 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion from Korea, on the 2019 champion
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Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.