A breakthrough of epic proportions nabbed the limelight, but Hannah Green’s superb major championship debut stood as its own amazing achievement at the ANA Inspiration.
Green, in just her fifth start as an LPGA Tour member, carded a closing 66 at Rancho Mirage in California to vault to a share of 16th against the best field in the world to date this season.
Remarkably, Green (eight under) pipped her fellow Perth ace and world No.16 Minjee Lee (closing 73 to finish six under and T25) to be the low Australian in the season-opening major, with Queenslander Sarah Jane Smith closed with a 69 to share 40th at three under.
Green, a Golf Australia rookie squad member, didn’t drop a shot in her final round in the Californian desert, with birdies on the second, fifth, eighth, ninth, 17th and 18th holes helping her scythe through the field.
Her $US36,190 pay day also boosted her past $US144,000 for the season, the majority of which came with her third place at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open in Adelaide in February. It’s enough to have the Mount Lawley member up into 27th on the Race to the CME Globe standings, with almost enough points already to lock in qualification for the season-ending Tour Championship.
Another who booked her spot in spectacular – albeit delayed – style was tournament champion Pernilla Lindberg.
The delightful 31-year-old Swede rammed in a 10m birdie putt on the eighth playoff hole to finally get the better of seven-time major champion Inbee Park, of Korea.
It was not only Lindberg’s first major, but also remarkably her first win on the LPGA Tour in 193 career starts.
“I dreamt of this moment ever since I was a kid,” Lindberg said.
“I remember writing goals when I was high school to win a major and I thought it was too good of a dream to come true, but it has.”
Lindberg is the fifth player to make the ANA Inspiration her first LPGA Tour victory, joining Helen Alfredsson (1993), Nanci Bowen (1995), Morgan Pressel (2007) and Stacy Lewis (2011). She joins Alfredsson and Annika Sorenstam as Swedish players to have won the tournament.
It was the first time in the tournament’s 47-year history that two players returned to decide a winner on Monday (Californian time).
It took the first three playoff holes to eliminate Jennifer Song from a three-way tie, but the fourth played well after sunset on Sunday night, couldn’t split the final pair.
Resuming at 8am local time, both players parred the 10th after missing long birdie tries, then each made spectacular medium-range par-saving putts on the 17th on playoff hole No.6.
The 18th, as it had been four times the previous night, was again halved in pars when both missed makeable birdies.
But on the next trip down the 10th, Lindberg drilled her long putt and watched in almost disbelief as Park couldn’t answer with a putt of half the distance.
“I just know I’m a grinder and I just felt this was mine. I couldn’t believe that last one went in and Inbee didn’t hole hers and it’s mine,” Lindberg said.