ROGERS, Ark. – Jiyai Shin arrived at the course around 5:30 a.m., then began her final round a couple hours later in one of the first groups to tee off.
A championship was the furthest thing from her mind.
“I wanted to just make under par,” Shin said.
Shin accomplished that modest goal and a whole lot more Sunday, rallying from a seven-stroke deficit to win the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship. Shin shot a 7-under 64 and outlasted Angela Stanford and Sun Young Yoo in a sudden-death playoff at Pinnacle Country Club.
Shin, an LPGA rookie from South Korea, now has three wins on tour this year, the most of any player.
“I’m lucky this year,” she said. “I’m just focused on the Rookie of the Year [award], but now I still have a chance for the Player of the Year [award].”
Nancy Lopez was the last player to win both, in 1978.
Shin is called the “Final-Round Queen” in South Korea. In March, she trailed by four strokes with nine holes to play before winning the HSBC Women’s Champions.
On No. 15, the second hole of Sunday’s playoff, she made a 12-foot birdie putt to win after Stanford had missed a longer putt along a similar line.
“Angela’s ball broke left to the right,” Shin said. “I trusted Angela’s putt.”
Shin posted her final-round score around 12:30 p.m. and had to wait about two hours for everyone else to finish. She finished at 9-under 204 for the 54-hole event on the 6,244-yard course.
About an hour after Shin finished her round, Shi Hyun Ahn reached the green in two shots on the par-5 18th. Ahn (66) three-putted to finish at 8 under.
Meanwhile, Stanford and second-round leader Song-Hee Kim were plodding along. For the third straight year, rain was a factor at this event, although it was fairly light Sunday and play wasn’t delayed.
“I thought for sure somebody would make it to 10 (under),” Stanford said.
Instead, Stanford (69) needed a couple of dramatic shots just to reach the playoff. She began the round two strokes behind Kim, and after a bogey on No. 1, she holed out a 138-yard 9-iron for an eagle on the second.
She entered the final hole knowing she needed an eagle to make it to a playoff with Shin and Yoo. After reaching the green on the 515-yard par 5 in two shots, she made a 25-foot putt.
“That was pretty cool,” Stanford said. “I told my caddie, walking 18, ‘They’re going to erupt if we eagle 18.”’
They did, and Kim (72) could have made it a four-way playoff, but she missed a birdie putt.
Shin, Stanford and Yoo (68) played No. 18 again to start the playoff, and they all made birdie putts from close to the hole. None of the three were able to reach the green in two. Yoo had to play a tricky shot from a bunker behind the green but was able to get up and down.
On the next hole, Yoo’s tee shot ended up on the fringe, and she was unable to chip in for birdie. Stanford and Shin were both on the same part of the green.
Stanford’s putt went a few feet past the hole. Shin then made hers for the win.
Although Shin is a rookie this year, she won the Women’s British Open in 2008.
Stanford’s mother, who is battling breast cancer, was on hand for the exciting finish. Although Stanford had to settle for her third consecutive top-10 finish, that eagle on No. 18 was quite a moment.
“I was nervous, and all day I had missed a lot of putts that I should have made,” Stanford said. “I thought, ‘You know, my mom’s here, forget being nervous. Be a player and get it in the hole.”
Earlier in the week, Shin had an English lesson at the media center, where she saw the tournament trophy. She said then she’d see it again Sunday, and she was right. She also moved to the top of this year’s money list.
“Just lucky,” she said.