MADEIRA, Ohio – The mental hurdle in golf is arguably the hardest to overcome. On Sunday, Minjee Lee did just that and recovered to catch Kroger Queen City Championship Presented by P&G Title after squandering a lead.
“Super special. I feel really happy and feel like I really deserve this,” Lee said.
Lee had a two-stroke lead going into Sunday’s final at Kenwood Country Club and led by as many as four strokes, but so slowly that advantage disappeared over the back nine despite playing clean golf with only a bogey.
Charlie HullNo. 11 in the CME rankings, overcame two bogeys in a three-hole span on the back nine and closed the gap with three consecutive birdies from holes 14-16.
Lee’s only bogey was a costly one on 12 when she overshot the green and allowed Hull, who also bogeyed the hole after finding the water, to gain a stroke.
In a playoff, both Hull and Lee made par on the first hole, despite Hull overshooting the green and having to putt from the fringe after taking a club-length relief. On the second tiebreaker, both players missed the fairway to the left, but Lee followed with a strong pitching wedge from the rough that left her with a five-footer for the tournament-winning birdie.
Lee has now won six titles out of the eight times in her LPGA Tour career when she has held a 54-hole lead.
“I just think I have a lot of grit coming down the stretch. I always put pressure on my opponents. I think I have a lot of fight,” Lee said.
Aside from the double bogey on 12, Lee played consistent golf over the weekend to capture her ninth career LPGA Tour win. Lee shot a bogey-free 65 with seven birdies on Saturday to move to the top of the leaderboard and opened Sunday’s finals with a 3-under 33 on the front nine.
Lee, who won twice in 2022, including the US Open, recorded his first victory of the 2023 season but has now recorded 10 top 25 finishes and is projected to move to 13th in the CME Projected Standings. Lee didn’t make the cut in the inaugural Kroger Queen City Championship last year.
“I worked really hard for this one and worked really hard on my game. I know I deserve this one,” Lee said. “It feels a little more rewarding to know that all the hard work you’ve put in has paid off.”
Hull, runner-up at the AIG Women’s Open in August and runner-up at the US Open in July, is expected to move up four places to No.7.
Ruoning Yin expected to claim the CME World No. 1 position
Heading into the Kroger Queen City Championship, Yin, from Chinarated as CME’s No. 2 golfer in the world with the potential to jump to No. 1. All Yin had to do, as expected, was finish in the top four — something the 20-year-old second-year pro had done six times in 2023.
Yin shot a 14-under par (274) to finish third in Cincinnati.
“My mind is blank right now,” Yin said. “(On the) last hole, I checked the leaderboard and I was like, ‘OK, another week finishing third’, but assuming I become world No. 1. It’s just amazing.”
In his quest for world No. 1 in Cincinnati, Yin went three days without a bogey. She never led the field, but her four-day scorecard of 68-66-73-67 represents a slow, careful climb up the rankings. Yin hit 34 of 56 fairways, saved seven bunker shots and averaged 29 putts per hole. 18 holes. Yin’s only blemish on the scorecard came on three consecutive holes, the first three, in round three, where she bogeyed. That’s 36 even bogey-free holes before and 33 bogey-free holes after.
Yin sits second in the Race to CME Globe with seven events left to play in 2023. The CME Globe is the LPGA’s season-long points competition, and Yin is just 23 points behind first place Celine Boutier.
2022 champion Ally Ewing cements top 5 finish
Cincinnati’s first Kroger Queen City Championship winner, Ewing, carded a 6-under par in the final round to shoot from 15th to fourth in the final standings. Ewing, who shot 22 under to win in 2022, shot 12 under (276) this time. The fourth place is her highest of the entire season and best finish since the victory in Cincinnati a year ago.
“There’s always something really special about being announced on the first tee as a champion and having that warm welcome from fans and still engaging, still cheering me on,” Ewing said. “The fan support has been great and Cincinnati has been great. I love everything about Kenwood Country Club. I seem to keep putting up some good rounds (in Cincinnati). You can’t complain about that.”
Ewing, CME’s No. 33 golfer, posted a four-day scorecard of 69-70-71-66. Her 6-under 66 Sunday was the joint best score in the final round.
“Today I drove it really well,” Ewing said, “gave myself a lot of birdie looks, which I know if I give myself a lot of birdie looks, I have a chance to go low.”
Ewing’s seven birdies on Sunday were the most of any golfer in the top 10.
More notable results
The Queen City Championship’s lowest-ranked top-10 finisher this year is Morgane Metraux, who is CME’s No. 107 golfer. Metraux is one of five golfers to finish fifth; the quintet shot 11-under (277) across the four rounds in Cincinnati. No. 97 Mel Reid (T-5) and No. 176 Cydney Clanton (T-11) round out what made for an impressive weekend from some LPGA athletes looking to climb the rankings.
Peiyun Chien, who led the field after round two at Kenwood Country Club, dropped to fifth after shooting a 2-over 74 in the final round. Chien shot a tournament-best 8-under on day two before shooting over par on the final two days. The LPGA’s No. 60 golfer, a fifth-place finish in Cincinnati is her second-best finish in 2023.
Rose Zhang shoots an even 72 on Sunday, whose 5-under (283) final scorecard takes a joint 31st place. Zhang, one of the LPGA’s rising stars, is only 20 years old and already boasts one tour win (Mizuho Americas Open) in his rookie year. Zhang was the first rookie to win on his debut since 1951.
This article originally appeared on the Cincinnati Enquirer: Minjee Lee captures the Kroger Queen City Championship title in the playoffs