Buhai, playing her ‘best golf,’ wins LPGA Classic

Buhai, playing her ‘best golf,’ wins LPGA Classic

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Ashleigh Buhai seized the lead early with four birdies in her first five holes, closed with a short birdie for a 6-under 65 and held off Hyo Joo Kim for a one-shot victory in the ShopRite LPGA Classic on Sunday.

It was the fourth win worldwide over the past 10 months for Buhai, who finished at 14-under 199 in the 54-hole event on the Bay Course at Seaview. Buhai won the Women’s British Open last August for her first major and first LPGA Tour win, and since has added titles in Australia and her native South Africa. She entered the week ranked 16th in the world.

At 34 years, 11 months, Buhai is the oldest winner this year on the youth-dominated LPGA Tour.

“Definitely the best golf I’ve played in my career,” Buhai said. “I think we have found a good balance. I’m on the older side on tour nowadays, one of the veterans.”

Playing in the penultimate pairing, Buhai began the day three shots behind leader Dani Holmqvist. By the time she rolled in a long birdie on the par-4 fifth hole, she led by one over Kim.

“Obviously I got off to such a good start, and the putt on 5 was a hallelujah,” Buhai said. “Those things need to happen for you to win, obviously.”

Kim, in the final pairing, birdied the par-3 17th to give herself a chance, but she needed to eagle the par-5 18th to match Buhai and could only manage birdie. She shot 68.

Rookie Yan Liu closed with a 67 and finished third, three shots back. Her previous best finish was a tie for 21st last week at the Mizuho Americas Open in Jersey City.

“Last week I talk with my family and my coach, and he just tell me, ‘You don’t need to watch cut line. You need to try to win,'” the 25-year-old from China said.

Holmqvist went bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey on Nos. 2-6, closed with a 1-over 72 and finished in a tie for fourth, four shots back. The 35-year-old Swede is winless on the LPGA Tour.

Nanna Koerstz Madsen (65) matched Holmqvist at 10 under.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been up there, so just really happy,” Koerstz Madsen said. “I just really wanted to finish well and not finish with something stupid, so was happy to close out with a birdie.”

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