LAS VEGAS (AP)Eun-Hee Ji won the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play on Sunday for a spot next week in the U.S. Women’s Open, beating Ayaka Furue 3 and 2 in cooler conditions at Shadow Creek.
Ji, the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open winner at Saucon Valley, took the last spot at Pine Needles with her sixth LPGA Tour victory and first since 2019.
”I’m so excited to win the tournament,” Ji said. ”Then going to next week, this is the way to be going into next week. I’m so exciting.”
At 36, Ji is the oldest South Korean winner in LPGA Tour history. Ranked 83rd in the world, she was seeded 36th in the 64-player field.
”I don’t feel old,” Ji said.
The temperature was in the high-80s Sunday after 100-degree heat the first three days and temperatures in the mid-90s Saturday. After a windy morning for the semifinals, it was somewhat calmer in the afternoon.
”This wind affect a lot,” Ji said. ”It’s really hard golf course today, especially from the tee shot. Really have to make sure keep it in the fairway. ”
Ji was asked if she was more more physically tired or mentally exhausted after playing seven matches in five days, four in the last two days.
”Both. My feet almost not moving last couple holes and my back hurts, starting to hurt,” Ji said. ”Really tired now.”
Furue is winless on the LPGA Tour. Ranked 27th, the 22-year-old Japanese player was seeded 10th.
”It was definitely tough conditions out there,” Furue said. ”I was having to use my brain a lot with the wind being so strong. Just not only physically draining, but mentally draining as well.”
Both players struggled early, combining for three par wins and three bogey halves on the first seven holes.
After making bogeys on the first two par 5s to fall a hole behind, Ji birdied the par-3 eighth to tie it. She holed out from 92 yards for eagle on the par-5 ninth and won the par-4 10th with a par for a 2-up lead.
Furue took the par-4 11th with her lone birdie of the match, and Ji countered with a par win on the par-4 12th. They halved the next three holes and Ji ended it with a par win on the par-5 16th – holing a 10-footer before Furue missed her par try.
In the windy morning semifinals, Ji beat Andrea Lee 4 and 3, and Furue edged Lilia Vu 2 and 1. Vu beat Lee 4 and 2 in the third-place match for the former UCLA player’s best finish on the tour.
”Exhausted. That’s all I can say,” Vu said. ”It’s tiring. My back is barely hanging in there. Going to have to do something before the next week.”
Ji opened group play Wednesday with a 4-and-2 victory over 29th-seeded Pajaree Anannarukarn, beat fourth-seeded Danielle Kang 2 and 1 on Thursday, and tied 61st-seeded Kelly Tan on Friday to win the group. On Saturday, Ji beat 20th-seeded Hye-Jin Choi 2 and 1 in the round of 16 and routed 12th-seeded Madelene Sagstrom 7 and 6 in the quarterfinals.
”Big thing is, I finished early yesterday,” Ji said. ”I have enough rest than other player. That that makes it a little bit easier to me.”
Ji had a simple plan for the U.S. Women’s Open.
”Get there, rest first, and then see the course and then just do same thing as this week,” Ji said.