Japan’s Ueda snatches Mizuno Classic victory in third hole of play-off


AFP

SHIMA, Japan — Japan’s Momoko Ueda birdied the third hole in a tense playoff against China’s Feng Shanshan to win the LPGA Tour Mizuno Classic in her home country on Sunday and regain the title she claimed in 2007. Starting the day with a three-stroke lead, home hope Ueda sank four birdies against one bogey for a 69 and a three-round total of 16-under-par 200 at the Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club in Shima. Feng’s stunning bogey-free 65 was studded with seven birdies, catching up with Ueda with a birdie on the 17th hole, before going into the nail-biting playoff. The unheralded Chinese player might have snatched victory at the last with a 15-foot putt on the 18th hole in regulation, but she couldn’t convert the birdie.

“I thought I would never win again. It was really tough in the four years since I moved to the U.S. tour. I’m very happy to win again,” said a tearful Ueda, who shifted to the LPGA after her victory in Shima four years ago. “I think I was able to control my nerve very well this week. Previously, I rushed too much trying to score a birdie, but this week I created a birdie chance even after making a mistake,” said Ueda. “When I hit the last putt, I couldn’t think about anything else. It’s not a question of strokes, but my feeling. After I missed a birdie putt on the first play-off hole, I just tried to enjoy it.” It was the 25-year-old Ueda earned herself the winner’s check of US$180,000. “It was my first playoff ever in my life,” said Feng, who earned her second career runner-up finish on the LPGA. “The third time we played that hole, she made a good putt to win and I feel happy for her. This was her week.”

Choi Na-Yeon of South Korea finished third on 201, followed by Catriona Matthew of Scotland, who shared fourth place with Taiwan’s Teresa Lu on 203. Defending champion Shin Jiyai of South Korea was in a ninth place tie on 206, while 2006 champion Karrie Webb of Australia was 13th on 207.