Jiyai Shin’s love affair with Australia continued as she came from three strokes behind Minjee Lee to claim the ActewAGL Canberra Classic by six strokes for her 50th career win and her second at Royal Canberra Golf Club.
The 29-year-old from South Korea, who was known as the ‘final-round Queen’ when she held the world number one spot from 2010-2011, opened with rounds of 65 and 68, followed by an eight-under-par 64 when it most mattered, highlighted by an eagle at the 15th, seven birdies and one bogey, to end on a three-round total of 19-under-par.
She had previously won the 2013 Women’s Australian Open at Royal Canberra and said: “I’m so excited I can’t tell you. Royal Canberra is my favourite golf course in the world.
“I have great memories from that final round battle with Lydia Ko and now this time with Minjee Lee: two great young ladies. I also learned from them. Royal Canberra is very nice to play. People came out to watch and the last few days we had beautiful weather, so I really enjoyed it.”
In her prize giving speech, Shin delighted the galleries by telling them that she was hitting the ball longer than ever because of the protein in the local Aussie meat pies.
Western Australian Lee, who had won the previous week’s Oates Vic Open, had been highly favoured to win after carding a nine-under-par 63 in the second round, but she ended with a disappointing one-over-par 73. Although she birdied the opening hole, her challenge faltered when she bogeyed the fourth and the fifth holes.
Although Lee birdied the seventh, she then dropped shots at the eighth and ninth to give Shin the advantage. She recovered from another bogey on the 10th with a birdie on the 12th, but Shin moved five ahead when she holed a nerveless putt for eagle on the 15th from 25 feet.
An untidy bogey from Lee on the par-5 18th gave Shin the opportunity to move further ahead with a chip and putt from the front of the green for birdie.
“From the start, I wasn’t hitting it that solid, so I don’t think I hit it that well or putted that well and I had one-over, but it is what it is,” Lee said. “Jiyai played well and I guess you can’t win everything. I was never going to win with those last couple of holes. After Jiyai’s eagle I think it was pretty set, so I just played my game.”
With three successive rounds of 68, the long-hitting Dutchwoman Anne Van Dam moved up into third position on 12-under-par, which booked her place in next week’s Women’s Australian Open at Kooyonga Golf Club in Adelaide, as the leading player on the Money List across the Oates Vic Open and ActewAGL Canberra Classic, not already exempt to the championship. The other players who qualified were Olivia Cowan and Jenny Haglund, as well as Amy Boulden, Marianne Skarpnord, Cathryn Bristow, Leticia Ras Anderica and Christine Wolf via the ALPG.
Van Dam started her final round in Canberra with two eagles in her first six holes, rolling in putts from four feet on the first and sixth respectively and went to the turn in 32, before coming home in 36.
The longest hitter on tour said: “I was hitting my driver so well and I just hit a lot of drivers everywhere and I was hitting it solid. I don’t know what’s going on but some weeks it just feels like I’m hitting it further and further. It must be over 300 yards, like 315, 320, something like that. If it goes straight, I have a lot of short clubs in and that’s nice on this course.
“I worked really hard on my putting this off season. I changed putter in Dubai and I’ve stuck with it. I’ve changed a few things and I’m just glad that in only a few weeks it’s starting to pay off.”
Pernilla Lindberg kept close to the leaders all day but bogeyed the last two holes to end in fourth position, with Holly Clyburn in fifth and Beth Allen in sixth. Aditi Ashok and Kylie Henry tied for seventh place, followed by Leticia Ras-Anderica, Georgia Hall and Caroline Hedwall in a share of ninth.
This was Shin’s third win in Australia, following her most recent at the 2016 RACV Ladies Masters and she will be gunning for a fourth title down under in Adelaide next week.