Hsu’s late eagle creates big swing in first career LPGA win

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Jessica Korda

Jessica Korda watches her tee shot on the second tee during the final round of the LPGA Tour’s Pure Silk Championship golf tournament in Williamsburg, Va., Sunday, May 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) — Wei-Ling Hsu promised her caddie she wouldn’t cry if, or when, she finally won.

She was mistaken.

Hsu eagled the par-5 15th hole Sunday, creating a four-shot swing that gave her a two-shot lead, and won the LPGA Tour’s Pure Silk Championship for her first career victory.

“At 15, … I thought about myself, that I’ve been waiting for seven years. I don’t want to wait any, more” a tearful Hsu said on the green after securing the victory with a par.

Later, after some time to let it soak in?

“I think this is the happiest day ever. How do you cry?” she said. “And somehow, I just cried so hard the last hole, but I feel happy. Just happy.”

Hsu closed with a 3-under 68 to finish at 13-under 271, two shots clear of playing partner Moriya Jutanugarn. Jutanugarn had a 70. Jessica Korda was third at 10 under after a 70.

Hsu’s eagle, aided by a fortuitous bounce that left her with a very makeable putt, came as Jutanugarn, who started the hole with a two-shot lead, drove into a bunker, needed two shots to get out, hit her approach to the edge of the green and three-putted for a double bogey.

And it all happened on the easiest hole on the course, again showing it can also be the decisive one.

The victory for the 26-year-old from Taiwan, in her 147th career start, was all but assured with another birdie on the par-4 16th that stretched her lead to three. And it came on a sweltering day on the Kingsmill Resort’s James River Course with parched fairways and greens that were fast and firm for all four rounds — unusual for May in Virginia.

For much of the day, the battle for the lead was like a juggling act.

Jessica Korda pulled into a three-way tie for the lead with third-round co-leaders Hsu and Jutanugarn with a birdie at the par-4 sixth while Jutanugarn bogeyed and Hsu made par. Korda went ahead two holes later with a par when her two playing partners bogeyed.

That sequence started a near-constant shifting of the lead, with Jutanugarn and Hsu getting back to a share of the lead after the 10th hole, and Sarah Kemp making it a four-way tie with a birdie on the par-4 12th in the group just ahead of the final threesome.

Hsu regained the top spot at No. 12 with a birdie while Korda fell two back, and then Jutanugarn enjoyed the same two-shot swing with a birdie at the par-3 13th while Hsu two-putted for bogey after missing the green.

Jutanugarn’s lead doubled with her third birdie in four holes on the par-4 14th, setting up the remarkable final lead-swap at 15.

“When I made that eagle putt, I just started shaking my hands, like my heart just pumping so hard, it almost come out,” she said.

Jutanugarn did sink a long birdie putt on the par-3 17th, applying some pressure to Hsu, but she rolled in a putt for par, pumping her right fist as it dropped into the cup.

Korda also birdied the 17th, leaving Hsu with a two-shot lead heading the par-4 18th, but Korda bogeyed the 18th, leaving Jutaugarn alone in second and Korda third.

“Of course it’s not finish I wanted to,” Jutanugarn, who was seeking her second career victory said, “but, you know, I still going to take a lot of good things from here.”

Korda struggled throughout, missing several putts she likely expected to make.

“The greens are just baked. The whole place is baked,” she said. “So it was a little tough to be aggressive, especially when you’re chasing and you kind of need to be.”

Kemp, seeking her first victory in her 14th season, was fourth at 9 under after a 70.

“I thought about winning, which I’m okay with. Like I want to get comfortable with that. Sure, I got a little ahead of myself thinking that, but the more I put myself in the situation the better I’m going to be at it,” she said.

The tournament, the penultimate event before the U.S. Women’s Open June 3-6 in San Francisco, was once among the most popular, but failed to attract several of the game’s top players, perhaps because its purse of $1.3 million is third-lowest on the tour.

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