From outright leader to champion at short-lived Saudi Ladies International

• South Korean holes back-nine birdie spree to win tournament • Minjee Lee had eight birdies in final round in Riyadh

From outright leader to champion at short-lived Saudi Ladies International

A three-over-par final round, with eight birdies and a solitary bogey, was enough for South Korea’s Minjee Lee to win the Saudi Ladies International by two shots.

The 22-year-old lead by two after three rounds in Riyadh but let her advantage slip with a bogey on the sixth hole before finding the fairway with a range of approaches on the back nine to record a final round of 72.

She finished four under overall and at that level, she would have held an outright lead had she not played her final two holes of regulation.

Lee knew with an hour to play she needed a birdie on the final two holes to hold onto the one-shot lead and delivered that birdie – a huge break with the competitive leaderboard and giving her an invigorating two-shot cushion.

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That still held true before the tough par-five ninth, as Lee was facing a dangerous drive and three-putted from the centre of the green, the bogey resulting from a five-foot putt. But from there on, Lee regained her composure as she produced a devastating finish and holes 11, 12 and 13, punctuated by a long birdie putt at 12, which proved the clincher.

Her victory lifted Lee to a career-high career-high world ranking of No8, and she was delighted with the win: “It’s just amazing for me, I’m so grateful and happy,” Lee said. “It’s been really tough when you have to carry a lead for four days and it’s just very tough to play that game and I’m just glad to come out here and put myself in contention.

“I’m just thrilled to put myself in a situation to go and finish with a 63 [scored in the final round of the final round]. I was feeling great out there and the putting helped me and it’s just awesome.”

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Lee started the event with a six-shot lead over the competition and that was stretched out to five but she wasn’t expecting a defending champion to work so hard on their game. “She played really great and I really didn’t expect her to play so well – she was hitting some really hard drives and she kept hitting great putts and that’s what got her back in it.”

Lee’s triumph also ensured there was no English victory in the event, having been won previously by Rebecca Foster and Jenny Duncalf. This season, Foster retired from the event with an ankle injury and Duncalf decided to quit the sport and attend to her business. Foster couldn’t compete this time because she was injured again.

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