Cheyenne Woods delivered a wonderful jolt to women’s golf, breaking through to win the Australian Ladies Masters Sunday in Queensland, Australia.
Woods surely made her famous uncle proud, closing like a Tigress under pressure to win her first professional title outside a mini-tour event.
Woods birdied two of the final four holes, closing with a 4-under-par 69 to pull away from hard-charging 17-year-old Australian amateur Minjee Lee at Royal Pines Resort. At 16-under 276, Woods finished two shots ahead of Lee (69) in what boiled down to a back-nine duel between the two.
“I played really steady,” said Woods, the daughter of Earl Dennison Woods Jr., Tiger Woods' half-brother. “I didn’t panic. I’m just really excited for whatever this leads me to.”
Woods, 23, who led since the second round, watched Lee catch her on the front nine with a bold charge. Lee won the U.S. Girls' Junior in 2012 and won the Australian Women's Amateur in back-to-back years (2012-13). Lee made consecutive birdies Sunday at the sixth, seventh and eighth holes to tie Woods, but Woods answered with a birdie at the ninth to re-take the lead. Woods never wavered after, holding off Lee with three birdies over the final seven holes.
The Australian Ladies Masters is co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour and Australian Ladies Professional Golf. Woods is a second-year LET pro.
“It just feels really great knowing my game is there, and I can play four solid rounds,” Woods said.
Woods won in a field that included Karrie Webb, who was seeking to win this title for a record ninth time before she was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard in the second round. The field also included Jessica Korda, who won the LPGA season opener in the Bahamas two weeks ago, as well as Caroline Hedwall, the Solheim Cup star who helped the Europeans beat the Americans for the first time on American soil last year. Former Rolex world No. 1 Yani Tseng was also in the field.
Woods won a SunCoast Ladies mini-tour event after turning pro in 2012. She was a solid college player, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title by seven shots while at Wake Forest. She did, however, struggle after turning pro in her bid to play the LPGA. She failed to advance through LPGA Q-School the last two years. She did qualify for the LET last year, ending her rookie season 78th on the Order of Merit.
Update: Tiger sent out a congratulatory tweet Sunday afternoon:
Way to go @Cheyenne_Woods ! A great win and accomplishment. I'm so proud of you.— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) February 9, 2014