It was a weekend of rallies at the 2023 LPGA Kroger Queen City Championship, which also produced a new world No. 1.
Minjee Lee was six shots back of the lead after 36 holes but through 10 holes Sunday during the final round, she held a five-shot lead. Ballgame, right?
As ESPN college football analyst Lee Corso likes to say: Not so fast, my friends, because that’s just when Charley Hull turned on the jets and put on a rally of her own at Kenwood Country Club in Cincinnati.
Hull birdied the par-3 11th and then overcame a bogey on the next hole to make three straight birdies on Nos. 14, 15 and 16 to forge a tie atop the leaderboard at 16 under.
Lee and Hull were still tied on the 18th tee box and they each proceeded to hit driver into the same fairway bunker, their balls ending up with 10 feet of each.
From there, Hull blasted out and got her ball to the front fringe, giving herself a 54-foot birdie putt to win. She missed just left and then watched as Lee, whose third shot was a chip to about eight feet, need to make her putt for par, which she did for a final-round 71. Hull then made her one-footer for a par of her own for a final-round 69 and the two headed back to the 18th tee box for a playoff, the ninth of the LPGA season.
Lee’s second shot on the first playoff hole found the green, but Hull’s took a huge bounce and came to rest near the grandstands behind the green. Her putt from off the green rolled and rolled and rolled and nearly went in, coming to a rest one rotation short of the cup.
Lee then pulled her 20-footer for birdie left and it was back to the 18th tee box for a second playoff hole. That’s where Lee landed her second shot short of the green but it bounded on and rolled to about three feet. She then poured in the birdie putt to get the win.
Lee secured her first victory of the season and the ninth in her LPGA career. She now has seven top-20 finishes in her last nine outings. More impressively, Lee has now won six of the last eight tournaments in which she led after three rounds.
Hull fell just short of her third LPGA win.
New No. 1 in Rolex Rankings
Ruoning Yin plays her shot from the fifth tee during the final round of the 2023 Kroger Queen City Championship at Kenwood Country Club in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo: Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Ruoning Yin, who finished solo third at 14 under, couldn’t quite catch the leaders but by virtue of a top-4 finish, will ascend to the No. 1 spot when the Rolex Rankings are updated on Monday.
She will unseat Lilia Vu, who climbed to No. 1 a month ago after winning the 2023 AIG Women’s Open. Yin, No. 2 in the rankings heading into the week, was outside top 400 this time a year ago.
Defending champ earns solo fourth
Ally Ewing tees off on first hole during the final round of the 2023 Kroger Queen City Championship in at Kenwood Country Club. (Photo: Albert Cesare/The Enquirer)
Ally Ewing, who won the inaugural Kroger Queen City Championship in 2022, shot a 66 and finished solo fourth.
Mel Reid also shot a final-round 66 to earn a tie for fifth, posting her best finish of the season and first top-10. She came into the Kroger having missed the cut in four of her last five outings.
Another Sunday 66 was recorded by Brooke Henderson, who was celebrating her 26th birthday. She tied for 23rd.
Rose Zhang tapped in for par for a 72 on Sunday, a day after posting a 73. She finished tied for 31st.
A total of 80 golfers made the cut and played the weekend.