Golf

Hole-in-one helps Ji to win Kia Classic for fourth title

South Korea's Ji Eun Hee won two cars yesterday morning (Singapore time), one thanks to a hole-in-one, the other for earning a victory in the Kia Classic at Carlsbad, California.

Ji aced the 14th hole during a five-under 67, and she wound up at 16-under 272 at Aviara Golf Club.

Cristie Kerr posted a 68 to tie for second at 14-under with Lizette Salas, who shot a 69.

Salas, South Korea's Kim In Kyung and Ji shared the lead after the third round. Kim finished with a 70 to tie for fourth place at 13-under with Jane Park (67) and Kris Tamulis (68).

Sweden's Anna Nordqvist (69), South Korea's Lee Jeong Eun (69) and Taiwan's Hsu Wei-ling (70) all wound up at 12- under, tied for seventh.

Ji, a 31-year-old veteran who took the US$270,000 (S$353,800) winner's cheque in addition to the cars, posted her fourth career victory. Her first win came in her second year on tour, 2008, and the following year she captured the US Women's Open.

An eight-year drought followed before she won the Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship last October.

"I hit it pretty well," Ji said of her final round. "I drove the ball very well and putted great."

Ji pulled away with a strong start yesterday morning, making five birdies and five pars on her first 10 holes, including a stretch of three consecutive birdies at Nos. 6-8.

Following her eighth lifetime hole-in-one, Ji bogeyed two of the final four holes, but she had enough of a lead to hang on.

The most memorable shot of the day came when Ji swung her seven-iron from 166 yards at the 14th hole.

"It was little downwind and I hit the same club as yesterday," she said. "My ball ended up right there where the hole is.

"Soon as I saw the ball fly, (I knew) that's going to be good. Lizette right next to me, she's like, 'Dunk in the hole,' and then (I saw it) just go in."

Salas' bogey-free round featured three birdies, all on the back nine.

"Four rounds in the 60s I think is a pretty good thing for me," she said. "Bogey-free on a Sunday? I couldn't ask for anything better."

"I'm starting to play better and more consistent on my ball-striking," Kerr said. "Just got to be a little bit more consistent mentally."  - REUTERS

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