Georgia Hall wins LPGA Cambia Portland Classic in playoff
Georgia Hall never looked at the leaderboard — meaning looking at her cell phone, as tournaments don't use leaderboards in 2020 — as she played the final nine holes Sunday in the Cambia Portland Classic at Columbia Edgewater Country Club.
"I was pretty nervous," she said "I had no idea where I was. I didn't know I was leading. I know that I was playing pretty well, so just kind of tried to stay patient."
She was leading, due partly to an unfortunate slide by defending champion Hannah Green. A bogey on No. 18 left her at 12-under 204 for the 54-hole tournament (4-under 68 for the day). And, when Ashleigh Buhai finished off her 7-under 65, which included a 4-under back nine and a birdie on No. 18, it was a two-way tie for the lead at 12-under 204 that forced a playoff.
Both parred the par-4 No. 18, the first playoff hole, and then while Buhai bogeyed the second playoff hole, par-4 No. 1, Hall made par and came away with her second LPGA tour win.
"I'm just so happy," Hall, 24-year-old native of Bournemouth, England, said. "To bogey the last (hole) I was quite upset about that. I had to reconfigure myself and get back to try and win that playoff."
In the playoff, "I was just kind of focused on my own shots and didn't try and look what Ash was doing. She's a phenomenal player. Even to shoot 7-under today to get in a playoff was great going, so all credit to her.
"I just had to try and keep holing my putts. I never knew if she was going to miss that (last putt), so I just tried to hole it."
The tournament purse was $1.75 million, with Hall taking home $262,500 with the win.
Buhai, 31 and from South Africa, missed out on her first career win.
"The fact that I shot 7-under today and got myself in contention, my goal going into today was to get into double digits (under par) and ultimately finish top 10 because (she wasn't qualified) in the U.S. Open, yet. I accomplished that goal; to get into a playoff was a bonus," she said.
"I hit good shots coming down the stretch. You know, adrenaline. I just misread a putt (on second playoff hole)."
Following Hall on the two playoff holes was Green, who showed class and camaraderie by leading the champagne celebration of Hall. But, the 2019 Cambia Portland Classic champ had an unfortunate day. Green was leading the tournament at 13-under through 12 holes, working on a 3-under day. But, she proceeded to bogey four of the final six holes to fall all the way to a tie for 12th (9-under).
Moriya Jutanugarn and Yealimi Noh finished a shot back of Green and Buhai. There were seven players at 10-under, including second-round leader Mel Reid and 20-time LPGA winner Inbee Park.
Money leader Danielle Kang, who sat at 2-under through 36 holes, roared up the leaderboard to finish tied for 12th at 9-under. She shot a 7-under 65 Sunday.
It's Hall's third year on tour, and she claimed her second career win — her first being the Ricoh Women's British Open in her rookie season, 2018.
Both Hall and Buhai had not exactly been tearing up the LPGA tour this season. Hall's best finish was 15th at the Gainbridge LPGA in January, and she had finishes of tied for 38th, T49th, T45th and T51st since the tour restarted after a lengthy break because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Buhai's best 2020 finish was tied for 11th at the AEG Women's Open.
"I felt very confident this week," Buhai said. "I'm proud of myself" to play well under pressure. "Even in the playoff I executed it the way I wanted to, so that's all you can do. Obviously a little disappointed, but there were far more positives this week than negatives."
Kang had the other low round of the day with the 65.
"My ball striking wasn't really there this week, but my putting average has improved tremendously," she said.
The 27-year-old American Kang has $5.7 million in career earnings with five career wins. She has $724,466 in earnings this year to lead Inbee Park, Minjee Lee, Austin Ernst and Jasmine Suwannapura.
The LPGA golfers had to deal with air quality and wildfire smoke upon their arrival in Portland, and Thursday's first round had to be canceled, making it a three-round tournament. The tournament already had to be played without fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions.
"I knew that LPGA was going to do whatever they can to keep us safe," Kang said. "I know that the practice wasn't as normal as normal weeks would've been. But, it is what it is. I think everyone got the minimum practice that everyone else did."
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