September 22, 2023

Rose Zhang continues to win Mizuho Americas Open in a playoff in the historic start of the LPGA Tour

Rose Zhang

Rose Zhang is now the first to win in her pro debut on the LPGA Tour since 1951. (AP/Adam Hunger)

Rose Zhang wasted no time on the LPGA Tour.

Even though she didn’t have her best round on Sunday, Zhang more than lived up to the hype in her first professional start in New Jersey.

Zhang, arguably the greatest amateur women’s golfer in history, won the Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National Golf Club on Sunday afternoon. The 20-year-old former Stanford star posted a 2-over 74 in the final round on Sunday, beating Jennifer Kupcho in a playoff to win in her professional debut.

“What’s happening? I just can’t believe it,” Zhang said on Golf Channel. “Last week I won NCAAs with my teammates, and to turn pro and come out here was just amazing. I loved the journey… I had so much cheering around me, all my friends and family I am just so grateful.”

Zhang is now the first person to win the Tour while making her pro debut since Beverley Hanson did so in 1951, and the first to win in her first LPGA start since 2019. She is the first ever to win the NCAA Division-I individual title win and victory on the LPGA Tour in the same season, something she did in just two weeks. The win also gives Zhang automatic Tour membership.

Zhang started with a one-time lead on Sunday, thanks to a 6-under 66 in the third round that put her at 11-under for the week. However, she started much slower on Sunday, bogeying the par-3 in 4th.

Zhang then rattled off 12 straight pars, though she missed what should have been an easy birdie putt on the par-4 16th. That birdie would have given her a two-shot lead with two holes to go.

Zhang then expertly saved par on the par-3 17th with a massive 10-yard putt to maintain her one-time lead. As her drive rolled into the fairway bunker on the final hole, she landed her approach safely in front of the green. That made for a great look at an up-and-down par to win, though Zhang’s putt was just right for the Cup.

Kupcho’s drive on the first playoff hole landed in the tall grass on the right side of the fairway. Zhang’s wasn’t much better though, as her ball ended up in a bunker on the right. They both threw safely in front of the green and Zhang chipped her shot in about the same position as last time. This time, Zhang dropped her putt to save par. However, Kupcho matched her so the pair went back to the 18th to play it out for a third time.

Both Kupcho and Zhang found the fairway on the third timeout, though Kupcho’s approach landed on the front of the green well ahead of the cup. Zhang stopped her approach to about six feet from 600 feet away. Although she missed her birdie – she was the only player in the field without one on Sunday – Kupcho made a three-putt. Zhang’s par was enough to seal her inaugural win.

“This golf course is rough,” Zhang said on the Golf Channel. “I really got a little bit of everything, tasted the pressure, tasted the wind. I tried to stay calm as always. I knew golf was just a grind and you really had to dig deep, so again that’s what I did. I I’m glad I’m here.”

Kupcho finished second only to her 3-under 69 on Sunday. Hae Ran Ryu was one shot back at 8-under this week.

Zhang has dominated the sport as an amateur in recent years. She was the first woman to win back-to-back NCAA titles while at Stanford, and she set the single-season scoring record twice. She had a scoring average of 69.42 in the 62 rounds she played collegiately, and she won 12 of the 20 college tournaments she played in. By comparison, Tiger Woods won just 11 times in his 26 starts while playing at Stanford. Zhang also ranked No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings for a record 141 consecutive weeks before officially turning pro this week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *