CHARLESTON, S.C. — Jeongeun Lee6 is No. 1 at the United States Women’s Open.
Lee6, a 23-year-old South Korean, shot a one-under-par 70 on Sunday, enduring some shaky moments to hold on and win by two shot.
She finished at, perhaps fittingly, six-under 278 to claim the event’s first $1 million winner’s check. It was her first victory as an L.P.G.A. Tour rookie.
“This is kind of really interesting how I finished six under at an L.P.G.A. tournament,” Lee6 said through an interpreter. “So, this is really lucky number to me.”
Lee6 has the numeral in her name because she was the sixth Jeongeun Lee on the Korean L.P.G.A. tour. (Jeongeun Lee5, who also plays the L.P.G.A. Tour, tied for 34th at 4 over.) Lee6 has embraced the number, answering to it and writing a large “6” on her golf balls. Her South Korean fan club is called Lucky 6.
Lee6 opened a three-shot lead with three holes to play before facing some nerves with bogeys on the 16th and 18th holes to tighten things up. But when Celine Boutier’s blast from a greenside bunker on the 72nd hole rolled off the green, Lee6 had the biggest win of her life.
Lee6, playing two groups ahead of Boutier, was practicing putts when the Frenchwoman could not make the sand shot. Lee6 bent down in joy when her victory was secure, and her countrywoman So Yeon Ryu, the 2011 Open winner, came over to embrace her.
“I felt pretty nervous starting on the holes 16, 17, and 18 after opening the large lead,” Lee6 said. “But I tried the best that I can.”
The victory came a few days after Tiger Woods’s former swing coach, Hank Haney, made disparaging remarks about women’s golf by predicting a “Korean” would win and “I’d go with Lee.”
Haney was suspended for his comments on his PGA Tour SiriusXM radio show when asked who would win. “I’d go with Lee,” Haney said. “If I didn’t have to name a first name, I’d get a bunch of them right.” Haney was suspended for his remarks.
Haney on Sunday night congratulated Lee6 on Twitter, saying that his prediction was based on statistics and facts.
“Korean women are absolutely dominating the LPGA Tour,” he posted. “If you asked me again, my answer would be the same but worded more carefully.”
Lee6 said her focus had been fully on the tournament. Because she has not mastered English, “I didn’t really understand him that much, so I didn’t really think about it,” she said.
Boutier, who shared the third-round lead with Yu Liu of China, made a double bogey on the final hole to finish the round with a 75 and fall to three under. Boutier tried to get on No. 18 in two.
“And then if I made the putt, then it would be best,” she said. “But I missed the green, so …”
Lexi Thompson, Ryu and Angel Yin tied for second at four under. Thompson shot 73, Ryu 70 and Yin 68. Yu, Boutier, BoGerina Piller, Jaye Marie Green, and Mamiko Higa of Japan tied for fifth. Piller was the only one of them under par on Sunday, at 68. Higa and Liu shot 74s.
Boutier and Liu, good friends and former Duke teammates, figured to fight for the title. Instead, both threw away chances early as they combined for three bogeys and a double bogey on the first three holes.
Thompson began the round a shot off the lead in search for a second career major. But she too struggled early with bogeys on the first, third and fourth holes to drop off the pace.
“It was a bit of a rough day,” Thompson said. “I got off to a pretty bad start. Just over all wasn’t as comfortable, I guess, over my shots.”
Lee6 is hardly a surprise winner. She came in ranked 17th in the world and has won six times on the Korean tour. She tied for fifth in this event in her 2017 debut and has three top-10 finishes on the L.P.G.A. Tour this season.
“So looking at her as a rookie to play this tournament so well, I’m really proud of her as a fellow competitor and same country girl as well,” Ryu said.
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