For the first time since Beverly Hanson in 1951, Rose Zhang has emerged victorious in her professional debut on the LPGA Tour, winning the Mizuho Americas Open in a playoff over Jennifer Kupcho. The 20-year-old fought to a 2-over 74, making two bogeys and 16 pars on Sunday to capture her first LPGA Tour title and hold off charges from Eun-Hee Ji, Aditi Ashok and Kupcho.
Starting the day with a two-shot lead at 11-under, Zhang opened with three pars in her first three holes to stay one ahead of Ashok, who moved to 10-under with a birdie on the par-3, 2nd hole. Ashok bogeyed No. 4 to once again sit two shots back of the lead, but Zhang also dropped a shot on the same hole, now one ahead with 14 holes to play. An Ashok birdie on the 6th hole moved her back to 10-under and into a share of the lead with Zhang; however, major champions Eun-Hee Ji and Kupcho were also making moves, with Ji carding three consecutive birdies on holes 4, 5 and 6 and Kupcho holing out on 7 to both get to 10-under and make it a four-way tie at the top. All three would ultimately fall away with Ji bogeying the 8th hole and Ashok and Kupcho bogeying the ninth to drop to 9-under, giving Zhang a one-shot lead with nine holes to play.
Kupcho grabbed a birdie on the par-5, 10th to again move into a tie for the lead at 10-under, but a bogey on the par-4, 12th hole erased that effort and Kupcho parred in for a final-round, 3-under 69 to post the clubhouse lead at 9-under. Ashok took herself out of the conversation with three bogeys on the back, clearing the way for Zhang to slam the door shut on her first victory as a professional, but she would have to work for it on the closing holes of Liberty National Golf Club. Her best opportunity to extend the lead came at the short, par-4 16th hole, where she pitched her second shot close and missed the birdie putt, remaining at 10-under with two to play.
Zhang parred 17 and her drive on 18 barely found the fairway bunker, making for a tricky second shot under immense pressure. She left her approach short of the green and her chip checked up a little too early, finishing 8 feet short of the hole, leaving Zhang a testy par putt for the win. Zhang’s par try slid off to the right and she tapped in for bogey, sending the 20-year-old into a playoff with three-time LPGA Tour winner Kupcho.
Hitting first, Kupcho’s drive found the fescue on the right of the 18th fairway and Zhang followed the lead, hitting her tee shot in the right fairway bunker. Both players hacked their second shots out short of the green and Zhang pitched her third shot up to approximately 12 feet, a few feet further from the hole than her third in regulation. Kupcho took note of the check on Zhang’s ball and knocked hers to six feet, and both buried their par putts to send things back to the 18th tee.
Kupcho and Zhang learned from their earlier mistakes, each finding the fairway with their drives, but Zhang stuck her approach shot close, hitting it to roughly six feet for birdie and the win. When Kupcho left her approach on the front of the green, rammed her putt well past the flag and missed the comebacker for par, it was Zhang’s to win, and she took advantage, two-putting her way to her first career LPGA Tour victory and first win as a professional.
“What is happening? I just can't believe it,” Zhang said on the green after the win. “It was just last week when I won NCAAs with my teammates, and to turn pro and come out here, it's just been amazing. I've enjoyed the journey. (Jason Gilroyed) was on my bag the whole time. I had so many cheers around me. All my friends and family. Just so thankful.”
Incredible few weeks for Rose Zhang, defends her NCAA title and then wins in her Pro debut. Go card!— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) June 5, 2023