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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2006 > LPGA > LPGA Corning Classic > Round 4
 

LPGA CORNING CLASSIC RELATED STORIES





Hee-Won Han wins in playoff

Hee-Won Han is a runner-up no longer.

After tying for second the previous two weeks, Han parred the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff with Meena Lee on Sunday to win the LPGA Corning Classic.

It was Han's first win of the year and fifth overall, and three have come in six playoffs. Lee, who finished second here for the second straight year, lost it when her second shot at the par-4 eighth bounced badly away from the green.

With Han safely on in two and staring at par, Lee played an aggressive third shot that bounced twice and nearly hit the flag before rolling 18 feet past. When she missed the putt coming back and settled for bogey, Han simply two-putted to win the fourth playoff in Corning's 28-year history.

"I was pretty nervous out there," Han said. "I was just thinking keep it in the fairways. I really wanted to win something."

The victory was worth $180,000, boosting Han to third place on this year's money list at just over $700,000, and dealt Lee a critical setback. Because she won the Fields Open in February -- in a playoff over rookie Seon Hwa Lee -- Lee was exempt from qualifying for the U.S. Open in late June. But she did not submit her application prior to the deadline and now must win one of the next three tournaments to get in.

Lee, who moved into the top 10 on the money list with $373,970, declined to discuss the matter.

Though Han and Lee are close friends, this remained all business because Han was aware of Lee's plight.

"I'm not that good of a person," Han said afterward, smiling. "Three times second place, that's pretty good, but I don't like that. I wanted to win."

Both parred the first extra hole, No. 18, Han with a nice-up-and-down after landing in a greenside bunker with her second shot.

After both parred No. 8, they went back to 18, and Han got a lucky bounce when her tee shot struck a tree on the right side of the fairway and caromed back out to the fairway. Lee drove under the right trees but managed to save par to keep the playoff going.

"I just kept it positive," Han said. "I got a little lucky."

Lee, who self-destructed last year with a double bogey at 18 and lost to Jimin Kang by two strokes, came from six shots behind third-round leader Jeong Jang and looked to be a winner until Han rallied with birdies at the final two holes of regulation.

Han, who started the round at 11 under, rolled in a putt from inside 12 feet that briefly seemed to stop at the lip before dropping softly into the hole to get to 14 under at 17.

Han then used driver on the tough par-4 18th hole, hit her second shot to 3 feet and made birdie for a 68 to force the playoff just moments after Lee had finished her 66.

Lee, who had a 32 on the front side after a birdie at No. 9, moved to the lead with birdies at 16 and 17 after a bogey at the par-4 13th hole, the most difficult on the course. At 16, she nailed a pitching wedge to a foot, and hit a clutch 12-foot putt for birdie at 17 that caught the left side of the cup and dropped.

Brandie Burton, who struggled all day with her putter, birdied the final two holes of regulation for a 70 to finish one shot behind at 14-under 274, one shot better than Mhairi McKay (68).

Laura Diaz (70), who challenged briefly for the lead on the back nine, and Thai rookie Virada Nirapathpongporn (72) finished at 276, and 18-year-old Morgan Pressel was another shot back and tied for seventh with Natalie Gulbis (68) and four other players, including Jang, the third-round leader. Jang, who entered the day with a three-shot lead, stumbled to a 4-over 76.

It was Jang's tournament to lose, and she made a huge mistake on the front nine that brought the rest of the field within easy reach.

After beginning with four straight pars, Jang drove the right rough at the par-5 fifth hole, a 449-yarder that statistically ranked as the easiest on the Corning Country Club course.

After studying the lie for a long time, Jang hit a low second shot that caromed off a tree and out of bounds. She then punched onto the fairway and two-putted for double-bogey, dropping her into a six-way tie at 13 under.

From there, it was anybody's title -- at one point 15 players were within two shots of the lead -- but one by one those who challenged quietly faded until Lee and Han emerged over the final holes.

 

 




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