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QUICK TAKE: Ryu Wins ANA Inspiration In Controversial Finish

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

 

It was expected to be another quiet finish on the LPGA this week with Lexi Thompson retaining her two-shot lead for most of the front nine of the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, Calif. But a TV viewer intervened by e-mailing in a rules infraction Thompson had committed during Saturday’s third round, effectively costing Thompson her second major title.


So Yeon Ryu birdied the first playoff hole to win the LPGA’s first major of the season after finishing regulation tied with Thompson at 14-under 274. But Thompson’s plight was the story at Mission Hills Country Club.

Thompson took a three-shot lead into the back nine by making four birdies in her first 11 holes. But after putting out on No. 12, officials informed her she would be assessed a four-stroke penalty – two strokes for incorrectly replacing her marked ball, and then playing it, on the 17th hole in the third round, and another two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard.

Before being informed, Thompson had three-putted No. 12. That dropped her from 17 under to 13 under, two strokes behind Suzann Pettersen and Minjee Lee.

Somehow, while fighting back tears, Thompson made an all-world birdie on No. 13, which allowed her to grab a share of the lead again after Pettersen missed a short par putt from 4 feet.

“(I) just regrouped myself,” Thompson said after the playoff. “My caddie helped me tremendously. We have a great relationship and he said, ‘Just stay with it, you can still win, we can birdie this hole,’ and I just tried to gather myself before I had that tee shot (on 13).”

Between Nos. 13 and 16, Thompson either held a share of the lead with Petterson, Lee, So Yeon Ryu or took a one-shot lead. But Ryu, playing two groups ahead of Thompson, birdied the par-5 18th to post 14 under.

Down the stretch, Thompson fought back tears, especially on No. 18 when “Lexi, Lexi” chants began to break out among the fans in attendance as she walked up to the green. She had a chance to win her second major in regulation with an eagle attempt from 18 feet, but settled for birdie to set up a playoff with Ryu.

“It’s great to have the fan base that I do,” Thompson added afterward. “They got me through the whole round. It’s unfortunate what happened. I did not mean that (infraction) at all. I fought strong through the finish. It was great to see the fans behind me.”

On the first playoff hole, Ryu went for the green in two and almost put it in the water, but she chipped to 5 feet and holed the birdie putt to win her second major championship.

“I cannot believe this situation,” Ryu said. “I didn’t expect to see what happened to Lexi. It’s a very unfortunate situation.

“It kind of weird feel, but at the same time I am really proud of myself and am very appreciative right now.”

Pettersen, Lee and Inbee Park finished in a tie for third at 13-under 275.

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