TOKYO • A star on the LPGA of Japan (JLPGA) Tour, Ai Suzuki showed she could cut it with the world's best as she triumphed yesterday at the Japan Classic, the final regular event of this year's LPGA Tour.
The overnight leader by three shots closed with a bogey-free five-under 67 for a 17-under 199 total to win by the same margin.
South Korean Kim Hyo-joo ended with three straight birdies for a 66 for second on 202 while Australian Minjee Lee (68) was third on 205 at the Seta Golf Course in Otsu of the Shiga prefecture.
It was a scintillating performance by the 25-year-old Suzuki, who has won 14 times on her domestic circuit and now has her maiden title on the US-based LPGA Tour. She pocketed US$225,000 (S$306,000).
After the sole bogey on her 11th hole on Friday's opening round, Suzuki did not drop a shot thereafter. Over the next 43 holes, she made 16 birdies.
"Somehow, I am very settled, and my shot were solid," she said through a translator. "So I did not have to worry about other players. I just have to play bogey-free round.
"One thing I wanted to improve is to have some birdies on Sunday's back-nine.
"Because I think strong players are like that. I wish I can do that. It was my 15th win. This one is special because it's a US LPGA event. It's beyond Japan, an international event."
The second straight Japanese winner of the tournament following Nasa Hataoka, the JLPGA Tour regular becomes eligible for LPGA Tour membership but must decide by next Monday.
This was Kim's third runner-up finish this season and she was determined to go one better at next week's season finale, the CME Group Tour Championship.
The world No. 16 said: "Next week I will practice more, and then hopefully things will work out for me at the CME."
Hataoka signed for a 70 and 217 total for 52nd spot, no thanks to a disastrous second round 76 that had five bogeys and a double bogey.