PORTLAND: Marina Alex closed the front nine with five consecutive birdies on her way to firing a seven-under par 65 Sunday and collecting her first LPGA title at the Portland Classic.
The 28-year-old American made the best final-round comeback on tour this year, rallying from six strokes behind the UK’s Georgia Hall over the last 18 holes for the victory at Oregon’s Columbia Edgewater Country Club.
“It was just an incredible day,” Alex said. “I’m so proud of myself.”
Alex, who fired a 62 on Thursday, finished on 19-under 269 with Hall second on 273 after a closing 75 and Japan’s Ayako Uehara a distant third on 275.
“The first day I played so incredible. I knew that it was in there,” Alex said. “Friday and Saturday I was so nervous. It was nice to have a hole I needed to dig myself out of it. I was able to free wheel it out there.”
Alex took her first title in her 124th career LPGA start.
“It has been a lot of hard work,” she said. “I haven’t been in a ton of contention situations. I really didn’t know how to handle them. But I’m just really happy.”
Until bogeying the final hole, Alex was only one shot off the 72-hole tournament record of 21-under par set by Canada’s Brooke Henderson in 2015.
But Alex didn’t even know she was leading until she reached the 18th green.
“My goal was 8-under to give myself a chance,” she said. “I was purposely trying not to look at the leaderboard. It really stresses me out. I had no idea how the others were playing. I played like I was behind the whole time.”
“I didnt know I had a 4-shot lead until my third shot into the green on 18. It did help a little.”
Alex had her best prior finish in this year’s Founders Cup, sharing second in the first US event of the year, and bettered it in the last US event before the tour spends two months overseas ahead of the season-ending Tour Championship in Florida in November.
Alex birdied the par-3 second hole on a six-metre putt, then began her birdie run at the par-5 fifth to make the turn at six-under 30 for the front nine, including an eight-metre putt at the par-5 seventh. She added another birdie at the par-5 12th.
Hall, a 22-year-old from England who won her first major title at last month’s Women’s British Open, opened with a bogey and took another at the seventh. She finally made a birdie at the par-4 11th to pull within two strokes of Alex.
But 10th-ranked Hall took a bogey at the par-4 14th and Alex, ranked 39th, birdied the par-4 15th to stretch the lead to four shots.
Hall chipped in to rescue par the par-3 16th yet could not take advantage of Alex’s closing stumble, the American’s bogey putt at 18 clinching the triumph.
Australian Minjee Lee was fourth on 277 after a closing 77, the second-worst closing round of her career. Lee made five bogeys without a birdie after starting only two strokes behind Hall.