Megan Khang tops Jin Young Ko for elusive first LPGA victory

Playoffs again, anyone? Megan Khang and Jin Young Ko faced off in the eighth playoff of the LPGA season after both finished at nine under par at Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club in Vancouver, B.C., to settle the CPKC Canadian Women’s Open. Here is how the Massachusetts native walked away after a closing two-over 74 with her first career victory in a one-hole playoff to earn the $375,000 winner’s check.

“I think it crosses a lot of people’s minds,” Khang said of whether she’d ever win on the LPGA. “I know my game is kind of trending and it’s kind of matured over the past few years, and so I was more so like it’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of time.”

In her 191st start in her eight-year career, Khang, 25, finally earns her elusive first LPGA title. The talented American’s 34th career top 10, and fourth in 2023, lands Khang in the winner’s circle, punctuating the end of the U.S. Solheim team’s qualifying period with another victory for an American.

Khang also surpassed $1 million in earnings this season, one of 18 players to do so, totaling $1,228,340.

Khang, 25, held the first 54-hole lead of her career, three strokes over 13-time winner Sei Young Kim, with World No. 4 Jin Young Ko looming five strokes off.

That lead melted quickly as Ko, a two-time winner this year, went out with a bogey-free two-under opening nine to cut Khang’s lead to one.

Khang went birdie-free on her two over front nine. Khang lost her lead on the 10th with her third bogey of the day to fall into a tie with Ko, setting up a roller-coaster finish between the two. Kim sat a stroke behind.

Ko gave a gift on the par-5 11th, the easiest hole of the final round, missing into the penalty area on the left to settle for her first bogey of the day, and only the fifth one the 11th gave up on Sunday. With the lead back in hand, Khang reached the green in two to post her first birdie of the day and keep Kim a stroke back.

Ko, again on a par 5, made a crucial mistake from the fairway on the 15th. From 80 yards away, she missed the green long, settling for an up-and-down par. She reached the front of the par 5 in two but could not extend the lead after missing an eight-foot birdie. Khang walked to the 16th with a one-shot lead over Ko and Kim, which wouldn’t last. Before Khang could tee off on the 16th, Ko birdied the par 4 to tie the lead again at nine under par.

Khang missed the 16th long from the fairway yet still crucially got up and down to salvage a key par and remain tied for the lead.

The par-3 17th proved challenging Sunday as only 30.4 percent of the field hit the green in regulation. Ko found the putting surface and two-putted for par, a score Khang failed to match with a missed downhill five-foot par putt that spun out. The 15-time LPGA winner held the outright lead for the first time Sunday with one to play.

It felt like Ko’s eight-foot par putt for a closing three-under 69 would be enough for her third win of the season on the 18th, forcing Khang to have to birdie the last to get into a playoff, walking it in with a fist pump. After all, the South Korean earned her par on the most difficult scoring hole on the course Sunday.

Khang sat at three over for her final round in the left center of the 18th fairway. Instead of Ko overcoming a five-stroke deficit to earn her second career Canadian Open victory, Khang answered, nestling her approach to five feet and jarring the biggest putt of her life to force a playoff with a birdie on the 72nd hole, posting a two-over 74 Sunday to go to extras.

They returned to the 18th for the playoff. Ko missed wide left off the tee and had to take an unplayable lie from the bushes. Khang watched in the middle of the fairway as Ko thwacked it out of the bushes into the front greenside bunker. Khang’s approach narrowly trickled off the left-hand side of the green.

Khang had extended viewing time again as Ko’s fourth from the bunker still had her outside Khang. Ko’s last-gasp 30-foot bogey putt just ran past the cup, allowing Khang three putts to win. It only took two for her to start celebrating her first career win.

Andrea Lee, entering the week needing a T-13 finish to take the final U.S. Solheim points spot, finished precisely where she needed to. Despite going four over through the first 14 holes of the tournament, she recovered to a two-under performance for the Canadian Open to earn a T-13 finish, paying off a three-tournament run of a T-9 at the Women’s Scottish Open, a T-9 at the AIG Women’s Open, and this week to take the final U.S. Solheim Cup points spot from Lexi Thompson.

Lee knew where she needed to finish going into the tournament thanks to scrolling Twitter on Saturday.

“I saw Grant’s [Boone, Golf Channel commentator] tweet last night, so thanks, Grant,” Lee joked.

Ruoning Yin’s six-under 66 was the day’s low round, moving the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner from T-11 to third place. The adjustment? Slowing down her tempo and taking her coach’s newfound nickname for Yin to heart.

“I feel like sometimes my swing tempo is a bit too fast, and today just right before the round he [Yin’s coach] text me, like, have a good day,” Yin explained. “Just be the tempo queen. I was like, okay. So today I just focus on my tempo and didn’t think about anything else.”

The swing change resulted in Yin’s fifth top 5 of her breakout sophomore campaign.

Lydia Ko’s third-round 10-over 82 pushed her to last place. While the Kiwi expressed appreciation for the fans’ passion for her on Instagram after her closing 73, she’s projected to fall to 90th on the tour’s CME points list, putting Ko in a perilous position to not qualify for the LPGA’s CME Group Tour Championship in November for the first time since 2013, as only the top 60 in CME points qualify.

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