PALOS VERDES — Marina Alex received the LPGA Cambia Portland Open in 2018 however over the following a number of years the 31-year-old New Jersey native was severely restricted by a again damage, leaving her to surprise if she would ever be wholesome sufficient to play once more, by no means thoughts win one other event.
These doubts have been all erased on Sunday, as Alex fired a ultimate spherical 5-under 66, serving to her rally from three pictures behind to win the inaugural Palos Verdes Championship at Palos Verdes Golf Membership.
Alex’s brief birdie putt on the par-5, sixteenth gap bought her to 10 underneath for the event, giving her sole possession of the lead with two holes left to play. The previous Vanderbilt College standout then efficiently parred the ultimate two holes, preserving her second profession LPGA Tour victory.
World No. 1 Jin Younger Ko, who additionally shot a ultimate spherical 66, completed alone in second at 9-under 275. Megan Khang and Lydia Ko tied for third at 8-under 276.
“Today was amazing,” Alex mentioned. “After a rough couple of years, I wasn’t sure if this (winning) would ever happen again. It’s been tough. I’m getting older. There are so many amazing players out here. The competition is really, really difficult. So, I just didn’t know if my mind and body were going to put me back in a position that I was going to be able to do it again.”
Beginning Sunday’s ultimate spherical in a gaggle of 9 golfers three pictures behind 54-hole chief Hannah Inexperienced, Alex knew she wanted to make one thing occur over the ultimate 18 holes if she was going to have any probability of successful.
Sarcastically, her spherical bought off to a sluggish begin with a bogey on the third gap however as an alternative of letting one unhealthy gap derail her spherical, Alex mentioned it elevated her dedication to remain within the hunt. She did simply that, making birdies on three of her subsequent 5 holes after which two of her first three holes on the again facet, placing in a tie for the lead.
Alex had no concept she was tied for the lead as a result of not like most gamers in rivalry within the ultimate spherical, Alex doesn’t have a look at leaderboards, preferring to not know the place she sits in relation to the remainder of the sector.
“When I tend to get a little leaderboard crazy I just don’t respond well,” Alex mentioned. “Some people respond really well; I definitely don’t. It just adds anxiety for me knowing if I’m near the lead or in the lead. It just creates extra pressure that I don’t need. It doesn’t help my performance, so I kind of have to be really disciplined to just take a deep breath and do me. If someone outplays me, that’s okay, but I don’t want to outplay myself. That’s the mistake I have made in the past.”
Jin Younger Ko began Sunday even additional again of the lead, so she teed off greater than 90 minutes earlier than the ultimate group. Being to this point again allowed Jin Ko to exit and play aggressively and attempt to publish a quantity.
She birdied three of her first 5 holes after which made an eagle on the par-5, seventh gap, giving her a gap 9 32. Whereas she made two extra birdies on her again 9, she additionally bogeyed the par-3, thirteenth, which in the end ended up costing her an opportunity at forcing a playoff.
“My swing was really better than first three days, and I got something — I found something, so hit really well today,” Jin Ko mentioned. “I got a lot of confidence out there, so, yeah, I can’t wait to play (next week).”
Khang was one other within the group at 5 underneath when the day began. She bought off to a terrific begin, making birdies on 4 of her 5 holes, and whereas she continued giving herself beauty at making extra birdies, Khang was unable to get any of the putts to drop.
None was extra irritating than the two-foot birdie putt she had on the par-5, sixteenth which she appeared to hit a little bit too onerous and it lipped out.
“I think I might have rushed it a little bit on my routine,” Khang mentioned. “I think I got a little excited and kind of wanted to knock it in and walk away. Unfortunately, it took two tries.”
Whereas her again damage has been a big a part of her struggles over the previous couple of years, Alex mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic additionally modified numerous issues for her. She mentioned whereas coping with the pandemic, she realized how necessary it’s for her to be dwelling and spend extra time in a single place and really feel a way of neighborhood.
“Like the tour life takes you away from that, so I’ve had a lot of struggle I think internally with what I want, the direction I want to go, what my next steps are in my life,” Alex mentioned. “I went into this year and I was like, I don’t know how many more years I’m going to play if I’m being perfectly honest. So, I just want to give it my absolute best this year and put every single opportunity into playing and putting myself in contention and trying to win tournaments. It’s amazing that it’s happened.”