Steely nerves seal comeback victory for Han Hee-wonHan Hee-won, 26, birdied the first playoff hole to defeat Canadian Lorie Kane at the LPGA Tour Safeway Classic, which wrapped up at the Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland, Oregon, on Sunday.
In the third and final round, played early Monday morning Korean time, Han forced the playoff by nailing a two-meter putt for birdie on the 18th hole to finish regulation play tied with Kane with a nine-under-par 207.
Han dropped a 1.6-meter (five-foot) birdie putt on the first playoff hole, also the par-four 18th hole, while Kane could only answer with a par.
Han came back to finish the final round with a five-under-par 67, after starting the day in sixth place. It was Han’s first victory of the season and third career win; she has four top-10 finishes so far this season.
“I feel very happy. This is my first victory after getting married last December,” Han said. “Because I made the birdie at the 18th hole, I could also birdie the last hole. That’s why I was able to make that one. When I was on the 18th hole, I hit the ball exactly the same yardage.”
Asked about how much pressure she felt on the final hole and then on the playoff hole, Han said, “I did not feel that much pressure. I just enjoyed my play.”
Last month, Han missed a 1.6-meter putt on the first playoff hole of the Wendy’s Championship for Children, losing to Catriona Matthew of Great Britain.
Asked if she feels more comfortable playing from behind than when in the lead, Han answered, “Yes. Playing from behind and trying to catch up with the leader is better than being in first.”
Han won the Wendy’s tournament a year ago, but hasn’t been able to chalk up a victory since. Her results this year include ties for sixth at the Evian Masters and for third at the LPGA Wachovia Classic.
Han’s husband, Son Hyuk, a 31-year-old former baseball player who retired in April, accompanied her at the tournament.
“I did not practice enough during the winter and had a bad record early this year,” Han said. “But this is a new beginning. With my husband around me, I feel at ease. I will focus on the tour for now, and won’t consider having a baby for the next two or three years.”
Han took home $180,000 in prize money for her efforts. She will also receive an incentive bonus of $90,000 from her sponsor, Fila Korea.
Other Koreans who finished in the top 10 on Sunday include Grace Park, in third place at eight-under-par, and Gloria Park, in eighth place at five-under-par. Jang Jeong finished tied for 15th with three-under-par and Kim Young tied for 20th with two-under-par.
by Limb Jae-un, Chung Jah-won