Danielle Kang capped her 27th birthday with a nailbiting one-stroke win at the Buick LPGA Shanghai on Sunday, fending off fellow American Jessica Korda for her second victory at the tournament.
Korda was the overnight frontrunner at 15 under, with the defending champion trailing by one in the second edition of the $2.1 million event.
Both had finished the penultimate day at six under par after Kang rallied from twin bogeys on the first two holes.
But a bogey for Korda and a birdie for Kang flipped the lead on the first hole, with the defending champion’s commanding short game keeping her ahead for most of the day.
“It was a really stressful day but I definitely really played well out there,” said Kang.
“I’ve never been more nervous than the last putt for some reason, but I made it.”
Korda’s superior driving drew her level twice, but a narrow miss on the green of the 11th notched her third bogey and she trailed for the rest of the round.
She nearly fell out of contention on the 512-yard 13th when a disastrous tee shot flew right of the fairway and came to rest against a spectator behind a tree, leaving barely enough room for her second swing.
She salvaged a par there and went one under on the final par-five hole to bring her back within grasp of a playoff, but failed to capitalise on a birdie opportunity on the 18th.
“It was just one of those days where it just wasn’t meant to be, I guess,” said Korda.
“If you were going to tell me at the start of the week I would’ve come out finishing second, play in the final group, and had the week I did I would’ve probably taken it, but this one definitely sucks.”
Kang played solidly through the day to finish 16 under for the tournament with two birdies, dodging trouble on the 11th with a masterful recovery from the bunker with her second stroke.
It was Kang’s third professional tournament win after last year’s Shanghai victory and the 2017 Women’s PGA Championship at Olympia Fields in Illinois.
Late rally for Hataoka
Day one leader Nasa Hataoka mounted a determined challenge through the day but was dogged by a rough patch through the back nine on the second day, finishing three strokes off the pace for the tournament.
The Japanese world number four tied for third with America’s Kristen Gillman and China’s Yu Liu.
Canadian number six Brooke Henderson meanwhile had another day to forget, the halfway leader finishing one over par for the second day running to tie at ninth.
Megan Khang shot up from 21st to end the weekend equal seventh thanks to a hole-in-one on the 150-yard 11th.
“It was my first one as a professional in a tournament, so it was pretty cool,” she said. “It was just exhilarating to see it go in.”
Yunjie Zhang achieved the same feat on the 162-yard seventh to make Shanghai the second tournament of the 2019 LPGA tour to see five holes-in-one.
© Agence France-Presse