Jang Ha-na has claimed her first LPGA title since leaving the US tour to play in domestic competitionJang Ha-na has claimed her first LPGA title since leaving the US tour to play in domestic competition (AFP Photo/Jung Yeon-je)
Busan (South Korea) (AFP) - South Korea's Jang Ha-na clinched the inaugural BMW Ladies Championship in a nailbiting finale with Danielle Kang on Sunday, edging the American on home turf in a three-hole playoff.
The former world number 10 was one off the pace overnight and slipped to four behind before an eagle on the par-five 11th hole drew her back into contention at the $2 million competition in Busan.
It was a cruel defeat for Kang -- riding high after a win in Shanghai on her 27th birthday last weekend -- who finished with a final round of eight under par 64, a tournament record which included a four-birdie run from the eighth hole.
"Honestly, I'm proud that I gave it everything I've got," she said. "Sometimes you don't lose. You just get beat, and I got beat today."
Kang's short game has been in searing form but failed her on the second play-off hole -- the 412-yard 18th -- when a putt from 10 feet skirted around the hole, prompting the American to throw ip her arms in frustration.
Jang claimed the title on the next hole with a birdie.
"I'm also happy that I went into play-off with one of my closest friends," she said after claiming the trophy.
"Out on the course, we're really good rivals. She's really good competition, and we've had this relationship for 15 years," Jang added.
"I'm just really happy that we managed to make a really good memory on this course."
It was Jang's first victory in a US LPGA tournament since February 2017 in Australia, shortly before she abruptly returned to domestic competition to spend more time with her family.
But she said any talk of returning to the American tour was premature.
"My mother is not quite well yet," Jang said. "I think I would have an answer for you regarding returning to the LPGA later on. I can't say right now."
Local contenders dominated the top of the leaderboard, with 10 South Koreans placing in the top 12 finishers.
Amy Yang finished third on 16-under for the tournament, four clear of Chun In-gee and Somi Lee.
World number one Ko Jin-young struggled after leading with Kang on the first day, rounding out the weekend with two rounds of 71 to tie for ninth.