Lee Jeong-eun loses sudden-death playoff at Evian Championship
The Amundi Evian Championship, the fourth major of the 2021 LPGA Tour season, came to a close on Sunday at Evian Resort Golf Club in Evian-Levin, France, with Australia's Lee Min-jee taking home her first-ever major trophy.
Lee Jeong-eun, who had been angling for her first tournament win in 23 months with a five-stroke lead going into the final round, finished second.
The expected winner had been Lee Jeong-eun, who in the second round tied the lowest 72-hole stroke total record in an LPGA major (61), and in the third round further widened her distance from second place. As the final round began, her win probability stood at a whopping 84.5 percent, compared to Lee Min-jee's 1.6 percent, according to KPMG performance metrics.
Yet the leaderboard soon started fluctuating. Lee Jeong-eun got off to a nightmare start, making a series of putting errors and ending up with three consecutive bogeys on the third, fourth and fifth holes.
Meanwhile, Lee Min-jee and America's Yealimi Noh rapidly shot up the rankings to quickly tie with Lee Jeong-eun. Lee Min-jee played a methodical, bogey-less game, whereas Noh took an aggressive and confident approach to cut strokes, best reflected in her four-meter birdie putt on the 8th hole.
Lee Jeong-eun did not sit on her laurels for the whole day — by the 12th hole, she regained her stride and signaled her strong intent to reclaim the lead by clinching a clinical birdie. Lee Min-jee responded in kind, however, by scoring three consecutive birdies from the 14th to 16th holes, shooting past both Lee Jeong-eun and Noh to grab a solo lead for the first time in the round.
With tensions soaring, Lee Jeong-eun managed to tie it again over the final few holes, recording three consecutive birdies between the 16th and 18th holes. Noh also stayed in the race all the way until the 18th hole, but dropped out in the final moments by missing a two-meter birdie putt.
A sudden death playoffs commenced. Both Lee Jeong-eun and Lee Min-jee placed their first drive on the fairway, but fortunes divided with their second swing.
Lee Min-jee's approach shot from 191 yards landed 1.5 meters away from the hole, while Lee Jeong-eun's shot from 181 yards landed in a penalty area near the green. Lee Jeong-eun ultimately went out with a bogey while Lee Min-jee made two putts to secure a birdie, the championship and 675,000 dollars.
It was Lee Min-jee's first LPGA Tour victory in two years and three months, her last win being the LA Open in April 2019.
Meanwhile, none of the Korean athletes who are set to compete in the Olympics placed well in the final round.
Park In-bee finished the highest, tied for 12th place, by cutting three strokes on the final day and ending at 10-under par. Kim Hyo-joo stayed in the top 10 until the third round, but added a stroke in the final round and finished tied for 17th place with an 8-under par total. Kim Sei-young tied for 38th place with 3-under par, and Ko Jin-young tied for 60th with 2-over par.
The four players will head home immediately then leave for Tokyo on the 31st.
BY KIM JI-HAN, JEON YOUNG-JAE [email@example.com]