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Stanford grinds out playoff win at HSBC Women's Champions



Singapore (Sports Network) - After thunderstorms, a late-round suspension and three playoff holes, Angela Stanford emerged as the winner of the HSBC Women's Champions.

Stanford sank a three-foot par putt on the third playoff hole, where Jenny Shin's par try lipped out. Shanshan Feng and Na Yeon Choi had been eliminated on the first two holes of the playoff.

The victory was Stanford's fifth on the LPGA Tour, and first since the 2009 SBS Open at Turtle Bay.

"I haven't won a major yet, so this is the closest thing so far," Stanford said about winning such a noteworthy event. "The best players in the world are here and they call it Asia's major, so it's the closest thing to me."

The tournament took a turn for the bizarre when thunderstorms and lightning forced tournament officials to suspend play just after 3 p.m. local time. The delay lasted nearly two hours, and at the time play was halted, only Shin, Stanford and Katie Futcher -- co-leaders after the second and third rounds -- were still out on the course.

They had only the 18th to play, a final-hole showdown to decide the tournament -- but that was just the start of the drama.

Shin was atop the leaderboard for most of Sunday and sat in the lead at 12- under, while Stanford was a shot behind at minus-11.

At the par-four last, Shin pulled her drive into the woods and two-putted for a double-bogey to finish her round of one-under 71. That put her in a tie with Choi (68) and Feng (69) at 10-under 278.

Stanford had hit the fairway with her drive and set herself up for a lengthy birdie putt, which she put within five feet of the hole. But she missed the potential winner for par, falling into a tie with the others after a 71.

"The rain delay was tough because you're the only three golfers left, and 18 has always been a tough hole for me," Stanford remarked about the wait.

The four headed to a playoff, in which they were to play the 18th hole repeatedly until a winner emerged.

On the first playoff hole, Feng was eliminated after her par putt lipped out. Stanford's lengthy birdie putt just missed, and she tapped in for par to return back to the 18th with Choi and Shin.

All three struggled to keep the ball on the green with their approach shots on the second playoff hole, but chipped close to give themselves a chance to save par. Shin chipped within a foot and easily made the putt, while Choi was knocked out after missing a five-footer. Stanford sank a short putt to continue the playoff.

And then it was down to Shin and Stanford, who headed back to play the 18th for the fourth time Sunday. Their failure to make par on the final hole in regulation led to the playoff, but this time, Stanford ended the tournament.

She knocked her approach to the back of the green and missed the long birdie try, but was left with just three feet to the hole. Shin settled for a bogey following her missed four-footer, leading to Stanford's winning putt.

"It's not a hole somebody is going to birdie in a playoff," Stanford stated about the difficulty of the 18th. "So really it becomes about hitting good shots and making pars and making sure you stay in it. So that was kind of the thought process the rest of the way is just be the last one standing and just try to give yourself a chance to make par. You want to make a birdie, but you don't want to make bogey."

Shin, Feng, and Choi ended in a tie for second, while world No. 1 Yani Tseng came in fifth at nine-under 279 after carding a 69. She had risen into a tie for the lead with Shin near the middle of her round Sunday, but an ill-timed double-bogey damaged her chances.

Ai Miyazato (69) and I.K. Kim (70) tied for sixth at minus-seven.

The leaders were separated on the opening hole Sunday; Shin made a birdie, Futcher managed par, and Stanford stumbled to a bogey.

Stanford got the shot right back with a birdie at the second, but Shin made birdies at four and five to put herself at 12-under and in the leader's position.

But Tseng had charged up the leaderboard to provide a challenge. She wasn't much of a factor during the first two rounds, after which she sat at one- under. But Tseng recorded a 67 on Saturday to get into contention, then birdied four of her first six holes Sunday. She ended that run by pouring in three consecutive birdies from the fourth, getting to minus-10.

Shin's bogey at the seventh reduced her advantage to only one stroke, and Tseng's birdie ahead at the ninth put them in a tie for first at 11-under. However, Tseng struggled to a double-bogey on the very next hole and never truly overcame that mistake.

"I think I just got a little bad luck there," Tseng said about the 10th hole, as a bad bounce led to her double-bogey. "It wasn't hit that bad, but just didn't get a good bounce."

Meanwhile, Shin and Stanford both birdied the ninth to go around the turn at 12- and 10-under, respectively.

Shin spent the rest of her round defending her lead and holding off challengers, and a bogey at the 13th made that a difficult task. She was still at 11-under through the 14th hole, with Stanford, Choi and Feng all one shot behind.

But Shin birdied the 15th to move to 12-under -- a key shot, considering Stanford and Feng soon reached minus-11. Stanford also birdied 15, while Feng was playing a group ahead and birdied 16 and 17.

However, Feng bogeyed her last to enter the clubhouse at 10-under, while Shin and Stanford parred the 16th and 17th to remain separated by a shot. They headed to the last with Futcher, whose chances for victory deteriorated with a poor front nine Sunday that included three bogeys and no birdies. Futcher's 76 on Sunday left her in a tie for 11th at five-under.

NOTES: Stanford pocketed $210,000 for the victory...Karrie Webb, last year's champion, shot a 70 to end at one-under 287 in a tie for 25th...Amateur Sock Hwee Koh shot a seven-over 79 and finished at 37-over 325...This was the second LPGA event to go to a playoff this year. Jessica Korda won a six-person playoff at the season-opening Women's Australian Open...The LPGA Tour moves back across the Pacific Ocean to Arizona in three weeks for the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup in Phoenix, where Webb will defend her title.

02/26 13:34:10 ET


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