First title the best present for McDonald

First title the best present for McDonald

WASHINGTON • Ally McDonald celebrated her 28th birthday on Sunday by winning her first LPGA title, capturing the Drive On Championship by one stroke over fellow American Danielle Kang.

She fired a final-round three-under 69 to finish 72 holes at Reynolds Lake Oconee on 16-under 272 in what was a memorable present.

“It’s definitely towards the top that’s for sure,” she said.

Her previous best LPGA finish was third at last year’s ShopRite Classic but she always retained faith despite not winning since turning pro in 2015.

“It just feels like a long time coming. I’ve never doubted my ability but it’s really hard to win out here,” said McDonald, her voice cracking with emotion. “I hung in there and I was really happy to get a win.”

Kang trimmed her lead from four strokes to a single shot on the back nine but settled for second after shooting 68 to end on 273.

“It shook me up pretty bad,” McDonald said of her rival’s late flourish. “I had to gather myself up and get my heart rate under control.

“I knew Danielle was going to put the pedal to the metal. I told myself to calm down and do what I’ve been doing, follow my game plan and control what I can.

“I was happy to hang in there and pull it out – just the resilience I have.”

Filipina Bianca Pagdanganan, the LPGA driving distance leader in only her sixth professional start, shot a 70 to finish third on 274.

Kang, who originally would be seeking a third consecutive LPGA crown in Shanghai before the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out the event, had been the joint first-round leader of this newly created tournament.

At world No. 5, she was the highest-ranked player in the field and a win here would have strengthened her position at the Race to CME Globe rankings, with just three more tournaments.

The winner will earn a US$1.5 million (S$2.04 million) cheque – the largest single prize in women’s golf history, but Kang could not seal her second Drive On Championship title after triumphing in Toledo, Ohio, in August. “I tried,” she stressed.