LOS ANGELES-South Korea's Ji Eun-hee aced the par-three 14th hole en route to a two-shot victory on Sunday in the LPGA Kia Classic in Carlsbad, California.
Ji finished with five birdies and her eagle one in a five-under par 67 at the par-three 14th at Aviara Golf Club. Her 16-under par total of 272 put her two strokes in front of Americans Cristie Kerr and Lizette Salas. Ji began the day in a three-way tie for the lead with compatriot Kim In-kyung and Salas. Her four birdies on the front nine included three in a row at the sixth, seventh and eighth, and she added another at the 10th. Her lead had been trimmed to one, however, when her tee-shot at 14 bounced on the green and rolled in, boosting her advantage back to three.
She maintained that edge despite a three-putt bogey at 15 when Kerr bogeyed the 17th. Ji dropped one more shot with another three-putt at the last, where her first putt raced past the hole. By then, however, her fourth LPGA Tour title was virtually in the bag. "I hit it pretty well today," said Ji, who hit all 18 greens in regulation. "I was driving the ball really nice and I rolled in nice putts."
She laughed when she learned she'd won two cars from tournament sponsor Kia -- the one that comes with the trophy and one on offer for the ace at 14. "Really?" she said.
"I didn't know that!" Even better, she gained a big boost heading into the first major of the year, the ANA Inspiration at Rancho Mirage, California, next week. "I'm really confident," said the 31-year-old, who won the 2009 US Women's Open.
Her latest win comes five months after she ended an eight-year title drought with a victory at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan in October. Kerr, who led after 36 holes after a second-round 64 but stumbled with a three-over 75 on Saturday, was pleased to put herself back in contention with a four-under 68 that included six birdies. "Eun-hee's playing some great golf," Kerr said after reaching the clubhouse on 274. "I did my best. I had a tough day yesterday and it would have taken a super-low round today to catch Eun-hee. I'm happy with my first good tournament of the year."
Salas had three birdies in her three-under 69. Kim had five birdies and three bogeys in a two-under 70 that left her tied for fourth on 275 along with Americans Jane Park (67) and Kris Tamulis (68). Cilic, del