|Korea’s Shin Ji-yai poses with the Women’s Australian Open winner’s trophy on Sunday. (AFP-Yonhap News)|
South Korean Shin Ji-yai captured the first LPGA Tour event of 2013 in Australia on Sunday, holding off the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer and a hot-shot amateur with a dramatic late birdie in an up-and-down final round.
Shin claimed the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at par-73 Royal Canberra Golf Club with the four-round total of 18-under 274 to beat the world No. 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan by two shots.
It was Shin’s 11th career LPGA Tour win.
Lydia Ko, a South Korean-born resident of New Zealand and the world’s top amateur golfer, finished third at 14-under.
|Lydia Ko plays a shot during the final round of the Women’s Australian Open on Sunday. (AFP-Yonhap News)|
Shin mixed in three birdies with two bogeys in the inconsistent final round.
Tseng poured in six birdies and an eagle en route to a 66, the best round of the day, while Ko stumbled to a 76 with four bogeys and a double bogey.
Shin and Ko opened the final round tied for first at 17-under, six strokes ahead of their next closest pursuer, Beatriz Recari of Spain.
Tseng started Sunday eight shots behind the co-leaders.
Shin built a four-shot advantage after just two holes, as Ko began her day with a double bogey and a bogey.
Ko quickly cut back into the deficit with back-to-back birdies on the fourth and fifth, while Shin slipped with a bogey on the fifth.
Shin fell back into a tie with Ko on the 12th with a bogey.
Then on the 14th, Shin found trouble well left of the green, just behind an advertising sign.
Just when it seemed she would be lucky to walk away with a bogey, Shin holed her third shot from the rough for the improbable birdie.
The emboldened star then picked up another birdie on the 15th to lead Tseng by two and Ko by three.
With Shin and Ko chopping their way to the finish, Tseng crept back up the leaderboard with an eagle on the sixth and then three birdies on the back nine.
The Taiwanese, though, missed the green long and left from the fairway on the par-5 18th and only managed a par to finish runner-up.
Ko had won a Ladies European Tour event in New Zealand last week to become the youngest LET winner ever at 15 years, 8 months and 17 days.
Ko also won an LPGA Tour event last year to become the youngest-ever champ on that tour.
With Shin’s victory, the South Korean contingent on the LPGA Tour picked up right where it left off in 2012.
Last year, South Koreans earned a combined eight LPGA wins, including three of the tour’s four majors.
Shin was one of three Koreans with at least two victories in 2012. (Yonhap News)