Golf: Hole-in-one helps Ji Eun Hee win in California

Ji Eun Hee celebrates her victory in the Kia Classic at Carlsbad, California, on March 25, 2018.
Ji Eun Hee celebrates her victory in the Kia Classic at Carlsbad, California, on March 25, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - South Korea's Ji Eun Hee won two cars on Sunday (March 25), one thanks to a hole-in-one, the other for earning a victory in the Kia Classic at Carlsbad, California.

Ji aced the 14th hole during a five-under 67, and she wound up at 16-under 272 at Aviara Golf Club.

Cristie Kerr posted a four-under round to tie for second at 14 under with Lizette Salas, who shot three-under.

Salas, South Korea's Kim In Kyung and Ji shared the lead after the third round. Kim finished with a two-under round to tie for fourth place at 13 under with Jane Park (five under on Sunday) and Kris Tamulis (four under).

Sweden's Anna Nordqvist (three under), South Korea's Lee Jeong Eun (three under) and Taiwan's Hsu Wei-ling (two under) all wound up at 12 under, tied for seventh.

Ji, a 31-year-old veteran who took the US$270,000 (S$354,000) winner's check in addition to the cars, posted her fourth career victory. Her first win came in her second year on tour, 2008, and the following year she captured the US Women's Open.

An eight-year drought followed before she won the Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship in October 2017.

"I hit it pretty well," Ji said of her final round. "I drove the ball very well and putted great."

Ji pulled away with a strong start on Sunday, making five birdies and five pars on her first 10 holes, including a stretch of three consecutive birdies at Nos. 6-8.

Following her eighth lifetime hole-in-one, Ji bogeyed two of the final four holes, but she had enough of a lead to hang on.

The most memorable shot of the day came when Ji swung her 7-iron from 166 yards at the 14th hole.

"It was little downwind and I hit the same club as yesterday," she said. "My ball ended up right there where the hole is. ... Soon as I saw the ball fly, (I knew) that's going to be good. Lizette right next to me, she's like, 'Dunk in the hole,' and then (I saw it) just go in."

Salas' bogey-free round featured three birdies, all on the back nine.

"You know, things just went Eun-Hee's way today," Salas said. "I kept fighting and I woke up a little late, started making birdies on the back nine. Overall, I putted a lot better than I did yesterday. Didn't miss any short ones.

"Four rounds in the 60s I think is a pretty good thing for me. Bogey-free on a Sunday? I couldn't ask for anything better."

Kerr carded six birdies and two bogeys on Sunday.

"I'm starting to play better and more consistent on my ball-striking," Kerr said. "Just got to be a little bit more consistent mentally; maybe everything happens for a reason."

The LPGA Tour stays in Southern California next week for the first Major of the year, the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage.