American Marina Alex shot a 4-under 66 Sunday to win the inaugural $1.5 million Palos Verdes Championship by one shot over South Korean Jin Young Ko, the world’s top-ranked women’s golfer.
Alex entered Sunday’s final round among nine golfers tied for third, three shots behind the leader, Australian Hannah Green. She took sole possession of the lead with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th hole and parred the final two holes to complete the tournament at 10-under 274 for her second LPGA Tour victory.
“The hard work has paid off,” said Alex, whose other victory was in the 2018 Cambia Portland Classic. “I wasn’t sure if this would ever happen again if I’m being perfectly honest.”
There were six other golfers still on the course after Alex completed her round, including New Zealander Lydia Ko, who was two shots back. Jin Young Ko had finished her round about an hour before Alex.
“So I just was a little on the anxious side if I’m being honest,” said Alex, who received $225,000 for the victory. “`I just wanted to be in a good headspace if there was a potential for a playoff, so I just didn’t want to count anything like as if it was going to happen without it happening.
“So I just was like a little probably on the reserved side and quiet. Just didn’t want to celebrate something that wasn’t really a thing, so I went to the locker room, I signed some autographs just trying to kill time … just waiting for those last few groups to finish. Once they finished, it was just kind of like an overload of emotions.”
Lydia Ko parred her final three holes and tied for third with American Megan Khang, two shots behind Alex.
Alex bogeyed the par-4 third hole, then birdied the fifth, seventh and eighth holes and completed the front nine in 2-under 34. She also birdied the 11th and 12th holes.
The birdie on the seventh hole “kind of propelled me in the right direction.”
“Sometimes you just need to battle through those feelings in order to get to the good place, and that’s where I kind of went cruising through the back nine,” Alex said. “I just felt really settled.”
The 5-under 66s by Alex and Jin Young Ko were the second-lowest scores of the day, behind Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand, who shot a 6-under 66 to be among three golfers tied for 13th, five shots off the lead.
Alex was sidelined from the tour from September 2020 until March 2021 because of a back injury she said was “probably caused” by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of time away from golf, not swinging,” the 31-year-old from Wayne, New Jersey said. “A lot of time just didn’t know what to do. I working out twice a day because I was bored in my house, going on runs. I was doing all sorts of things I would never in a thousand years do in my normal routine. I think it put me in a pretty vulnerable state if I’m being honest.
“After about four events into the restart in July I was not in a good place at all. I’m also used to having a physio therapist out there and I’m getting pretty regular treatment, and none of that was happening when we were in lockdown.”
Jin Young Ko began the round among eight golfers tied for 12th four shots off the lead. She birdied the third and fifth holes, had an eagle on the par-5 seventh, a birdie on the 12th, a bogey on the 13th and a birdie on the 16th.
Green shot a 1-over 72 and finished in a four-way tie for fifth, three shots off the lead.
“I never really gave myself close chances and it did get quite bumpy out there,” said Green, who had four bogeys, including on the second and third holes, and birdies on the fourth, seventh and 12th holes. “Super happy with the results.”
Anna Davis was 70th in her LPGA Tour debut with a final-round 5-over 76 to finish at 7-over 291. The 16-year-old won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur April 2.
“It’s been a really fun experience,” Davis said. “For my first LPGA event I would say making the cut is a pretty good accomplishment.”