Amy Yang holds steady to win KPMG Women’s PGA Championship

The South Korean claims the prize at the major tournament played at Sammamish’s Sahalee Country Club.

  • Scott Hanson, The Seattle Times
  • Monday, June 24, 2024 3:44pm
  • Sports

SAMMAMISH — While those around her started flailing, South Korean Amy Yang stayed as steady as she had been all week until the final three holes Sunday at Sahalee Country Club.

Because of that, Yang extended a two-shot lead entering the final round into a seven-shot lead through her first 15 holes. It was a big enough lead to let her withstand some late missteps and win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship by three shots over Lilia Vu, Miya Yamashita and Jin Young Ko for her first major title.

Yang closed with an even-par 72 and finished at 7-under 281.

Yang birdied the eighth hole, the hardest hole all week, while playing partners Yamashita from Japan and American Lauren Hartlage made a double bogey on the hole, pushing Yang’s lead from two shots to five.

That Yang would finally win her first major after being in contention so many times before was never really in doubt after that.

“At one point, I thought will I ever win a major championship before I retire, and I finally did it and it’s just amazing,” said Yang, 34, who won her sixth LPGA Tour event.

Yang’s lead grew to seven shots before she missed a 3-foot par putt on the 16th hole, then made a double bogey on the par-3 17th hole after hitting her tee shot into the water.

That cut the lead to three shots heading to the final hole. After putting her drive in the fairway, Yang hit her second shot into the rough. But when she hit her third shot on the green, it was all but over and she two-putted for a closing par.

Moments after the putt dropped, some of Yang’s friends on the LPGA Tour doused her with Champagne.

It was well earned.

Yang, who earned $1.56 million with the win, said it was “the longest 18 holes I ever played in my career,” but said she was boosted by the crowd that she called the best of her career.

“I was that much stressed and felt pressure out there. But I think I managed to stay well and stay positive,” said Yang, who qualified to represent South Korea in the Olympics next month. “Golf is really just like a fight against myself. (But) I think I proved to myself that I can compete and I can do this, so (this) was a good learning week.”

On a course that beat up almost everyone in the field — at least at times — Yang made just five bogeys and nothing worse than that through 69 holes. That gave her more than enough cushion to withstand the late hiccups.

Yang entered the week with 21 top-10 finishes in the LPGA’s five major tournaments without a victory in one. Twice, she had finished second alone at the U.S. Women’s Open (2012 and 2015), part of seven top-10 finishes in that event.

Yang, who finished seventh when this event was played at Sahalee in 2016, started the day with a two-shot lead over Hartlage and Yamashita.

Hartlage had never finished better than 51st in a major, at the 2022 U.S. Open, and her best finish in an LPGA Tour event was a tie for sixth.

But despite the inexperience in pressure situations like the one she was in Sunday, she started fast and was 2 under through five holes when she missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the par-5 sixth hole that would have moved her into a tie for the lead with Yang.

Hartlage followed that with a double bogey on the seventh to fall three behind.

That left Yamashita the nearest pursuer, two shots back.

But not for long. Yamashita, who has won five times on the LPGA Tour of Japan and finished 12th last month in the U.S. Women’s Open — her best finish in a major — became one of just many through four days to suffer a double bogey on the eighth hole.

That left Yamashita five behind, and Hartlage six behind after a second straight double bogey.

From that point on, it seemed she was battling for second place.

That battle was tight. When Yamashita bogeyed the 15th hole, it dropped her into a five-way tie at 3 under, seven strokes behind Yang.

Vu, who was part of the three-way tie for second place, was not surprised that Yang kept her lead Sunday.

“I know she’s a really solid player and knows how to win,” Vu said. “Obviously, it’s working for her and she’s played so well, so congrats to her.”

It was also an excellent week for Vancouver, Wash., resident Caroline Inglis who finished tied for ninth, her best finish on the LPGA Tour, surpassing the tie for 10th she had in 2018.

But no one had a better week than Yang, who had missed the cut in her previous two events and whose top finish this year before this week had been a tie for 22nd.

Things clicked at just the right time.

“It’s amazing, and like I said before, I proved to myself that I can do this and I’ll continue to work hard and go for next one,” Yang said.

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