American Cristie Kerr holed a 36-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to close out a thrilling final round and win the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia by one shot.
After a dropped shot by Kerr on the 17th, it looked as though the tournament was heading for a four-way play-off together with Danielle Kang, Jacqui Concolino and Shanshan Feng, but the seasoned pro showed her class to make the putt and claim the winner’s cheque of US$ 270,000.
Kerr carded an even-par 71 for the round which included four birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey on the par-3 seventh.
Fan favourite Feng was also unable to break par on a course that she has so dominated over the years. One shot behind Feng at the start of play, the popular Chinese looked like she was out of the running with dropped shots on the 9th and 13th holes. But she fought her way back and had the opportunity to force a play-off with her final putt, but it was to be Kerr’s year.
Speaking after her victory, Kerr said:
With a little more adrenaline today, it was a little more difficult to execute the way I wanted to. Being in the final group on Sunday, you know, coming down to the wire, that’s what you feel. I’ve been there enough to know that you just take deep breaths and you do the best you could.”
In reference to the last putt, she added, “When I hit it, I could just tell it was going in. It was the most amazing thing. Like it was perfect speed; if it missed, it was going to be two feet by. It was right in the center [and] never even thought about missing.”
Danielle Kang produced her low round of the tournament, carding 5-under par 66 and was leader in the clubhouse at the closing stages of the tournament. She was soon joined by Jacqui Concolino, who had the opportunity to go top with a puttable birdie chance on the 18th.
Feng, who extends her record of finishing in the top-two for a fifth year running, said:
“I tried my best. On the last three holes, I made two birdies, and on the last hole, Cristie held that putt. You know, I was just trying to make that putt, but I didn’t. I think second is still not a bad finish here, and I’m still keeping my record pretty good here in Malaysia. So it goes 2-1-2-1-2; I’ll come back next year and see if I can keep it up.”
Finishing at a respectable 9-over par on aggregate, 16-year-old Malaysian Winnie Ng collected the leading amateur prize, while also topping the eight-strong Malaysian contingent. Asked how she felt to be the lead national, Ng said:
“Really good. I was really grateful that I have such a good opportunity to play in this event, thanks to Sime Darby LPGA. And I had a lot of fun with the professionals. They were really friendly, all of them, for this week, all the players.
“Last year, my mistake was I playing their game plan. Some of them, they attack the pin and I did the same thing. But you know, amateurs are not as good. So this year, I learned to play my own game plan; hit it to the middle of the green. I learned to not expect anything. I told myself that I’m not going to expect myself to be in any position, and not to expect all of this to happen. Just play with no pressure and just have fun.”
At 40 years old, Kerr becomes the first winner over the age of 40 since Catriona Matthew won the 2011 Lorena Ochoa Invitational at 42. With her win, Kerr earns 500 points and is projected to move from seventh to fifth in the Race to CME Globe with 2,583 points.
It also takes the American’s season earnings over the US$ 1.4 million mark, and with career earnings at some US$ 19,142,286, Kerr becomes the third player in LPGA history to cross the $19 million mark, joining Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb.
Steven Thielke, CEO of TPC Kuala Lumpur and Chairman of the Tournament Committee said:
“Congratulations to Cristie on a fantastic and highly deserved win at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. She is a true champion and the embodiment of ‘Women with Drive’. We wish her more success in the years to come.
“We’ve enjoyed four days of first class golf, food, music and entertainment here at TPC Kuala Lumpur. Thank you to all the fans that have made their way to the club and I hope they have enjoyed Malaysia’s most fun golf tournament as much as we have,” added Thielke.
A long-term supporter of breast cancer research, Kerr’s win is a fitting result for an event that has done so much to support cancer research in Malaysia. With fund raising efforts still ongoing, Kerr’s commitment to make a donation to Cancer Research Malaysia will be the icing on the cake for the 8th edition of the tournament.