31-year old Korean veteran Eun-Hee Ji switched on her afterburner and cruised to a seven-under par 65 for a record-tying six-stroke victory over former Rolex Rankings No. 1 and 2015 LPGA Taiwan Championship winner Lydia Ko of New Zealand, atoning for her wasted chance to get back into the winner's circle two years ago here.
Even though Ko opened with a birdie today, Ji remained focused and relaxed and immediately returned the favour with a birdie herself at the 2nd hole. From there, it turned out to be a birdie-fest between these two outstanding players -- each of them converted seven birdies -- and Ko was unable to overcome the gap as the two went tit for tat along the way.
Ji, a three-time LPGA Tour winner now, lifted her first LPGA Tour trophy since edging Taiwan's Candie Kung in the 2009 U.S. Women's Open with an aggregate score of 17-under par, while equalling the largest winning margin on the Tour this year and pocketing USD330,000 in prize money.
"I like playing in Taiwan and really enjoy this tournament. When I come to Taiwan, I always play great and try to win. I couldn't win a couple of years ago so I am happy I won," said Ji, who has played in every edition of the seven-year-old LPGA Taiwan Championship. "After winning the U.S. Open, I changed my swing a lot, and that's why I haven't won in eight years. I just found the key for my swing and my caddie also helps me a lot with my swing."
Lydia Ko, who has been victorious in three tournaments hosted by the Swinging Skirts Golf Foundation, came up short and finished in second at 11-under par despite matching Ji with a 65 today. "When I was on 17 tee, I said I wanted to finish with two birdies, and I was able to do that. I played really solid today," said Ko, whose eagle put lipped out on the 18th green.
Rolex Rankings No. 1 player So Yeon Ryu of South Korea also turned in an impressive bogey-free scorecard featuring 7 birdies today, tying for third at seven-under with four players including Chinese ace Shanshan Feng. American veteran Cristie Kerr and compatriot Jacqui Concolino finished 8th and 9th at six-under and five-under, respectively.
Taiwan's Wei-Ling Hsu also took advantage of the most favourable weather of the week and closed with an impressive six-under 66 to finish tied for 10th, her best result on the LPGA Tour this season. "Actually I was feeling quite good on the course yesterday, and the only disappointment was driving accuracy. I think I rushed a little bit on my backswing. So I worked on my tee shots at the driving range prior to my start today, and I think it is paying off.
Hsu, who hit only two fairways on her back nine in round 3, drove the ball beautifully today. "I think I outdrove (playing partners) Azahara Munoz and Na Yeon Choi by some 15 or 20 yards at the 12th hole. My tee shots helped me a lot!" Candie Kung was one shot back at three-under par for the tournament after carding a three-under 69 today, good for a three-way tie for 14th.
Yani Tseng, the inaugural LPGA Taiwan Championship winner who helped bring this event to Taiwan, gave a record-breaking gallery of 20,000+ fans a lot to cheer about today at the Miramar Golf Country Club. Tseng saved the best for last and charged up the leaderboard, reaching as high as T3 after putting together a three-hole stretch featuring eagle-birdie-birdie between the 12th and 14th holes.
Unfortunately, Tseng laced her tee shot out of bound at the 15th tee, which cost her a double-bogey. Tseng ended with a three-under par 69 to finish T17 at two-under par. "I am thrilled to see so many fans showing up today and the sun finally came out. I really enjoyed it out there today." Tseng revealed her putting still left a lot to be desired today and she hoped that "my putting will be much improved when I come back next year."
Japanese LPGA Tour regular Pei-Ying Tsai of Taiwan took a double-bogey 7 at the 6th hole after making par in each of the first five holes and was never able to find her rhythm the rest of the round. Tsai shot an even-par 72 to finish T23.
Before the award ceremony today, the tournament was graced with an honourable guest appearance by Her Excellency President Tsai, Ing-wen of the Republic of China (Taiwan), marking an unprecedented visit by a sitting President to this prestigious tournament. Madame Tsai took part in a putting exhibition in which she effortlessly rolled in a putt for a "hole-in-one".