(Reuters) – Danielle Kang held her nerve to claim a one shot victory over France’s Celine Boutier at the Drive On Championship on Sunday, as the LPGA Tour made a dramatic return from a near six-month COVID-19 shutdown.
The final round at drizzly Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio began with Kang, Boutier, and Britain’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff all sharing the lead and ended in sunshine with the American on top after carding a two-under 70.
Tough scoring all week at the iconic Inverness Club, which has hosted four U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships, saw only four players finish under par, Kang’s six-under 209 total enough to earn the world number four her a fourth career LPGA Tour title.
Boutier mounted a back nine charge but stalled over the closing holes signing for a one-under 71 for a runnerup total of 210 followed by Australia’s Minjee Lee, who birdied three of her final four holes for a 70 to sit alone in third on 212 three back of the winner.
“I knew where I was standing with three holes left and I wanted to know where I was on the final hole stretch,” said Kang. “You have to respect the golf course and that’s what I tried to do even the little putts I didn’t take for granted.”
Kang got off to a hot start with birdies at the second and fourth to surge clear at the top of the leaderboard.
Working on an error free day Kang opened up a three shot cushion with her third birdie of the day at the 11th before things began to tighten.
As Kang took her first bogey at 13 Boutier had already stepped up the pressure with back-to-back birdies at 11 and 12 to chop the American’s lead to one.
After Boutier rolled in a seven-foot birdie putt at the 14th to join Kang top the leaderboard the battle for the title had boiled down to two women with four play.
The Frenchwoman was the first to blink with a bogey at 15 while Kang would hold her nerve through to the finish with four straight pars.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Sam Holmes)