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NCAA champion Rose Zhang first LPGA player in 72 years to win in pro debut

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Two-time NCAA champion Rose Zhang became the first LPGA Tour winner in her pro debut in 72 years, capturing the Mizuho Americas Open with a par on the second hole in a playoff against Jennifer Kupcho on Sunday.

The last female player to win as a pro in her debut was Beverly Hanson, who edged Babe Zaharias to take the Eastern Open in 1951.

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Zhang shot a two-over 74 in the final round and squandered a chance to win the event on the 72nd when she missed an eight-foot par saver after making at least a half dozen clutch saves in a gritty final-round performance.

The much-heralded 20-year-old from Stanford made a nearly identical eight-footer on No. 18 at Liberty National on the first playoff hole. Kupcho, who won an NCAA title at Wake Forest in 2018 and had a final-round 69, also made a par.

Both players hit the fairway on No. 18 on the second playoff hole, but Zhang hit her approach from the fairway within 10 feet. Kupcho was short on her approach, her first putt went just over the back edge of the green and her second putt just missed. That left Zhang with a two-putt par to win.

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Zhang held her face in disbelief after the winning putt fell and was then mobbed and presented with bouquets of roses.

Zhang, who is seen as the most-hyped player to join the tour since Michelle Wie in 2009, did not have a birdie in her final round and finished at nine-under 279 on the course with the New York City skyline as a backdrop.

South Korean rookie Hae Ran Ryu (70) was third at eight under. Aditi Ashok of India, Ayaka Furue of Japan and Eun-Hee Ji of South Korea were at seven under. Ashleigh Buhai of South Africa, Leona Maguire of Ireland and Yuka Saso of Japan finished at six under, three shots behind the leaders.

Zhang turned pro last week after the NCAAs and much was expected right away. She was the top-ranked women’s amateur for 141 weeks and won every big women’s amateur event, the U.S. Women’s Amateur, the U.S. Junior Girls, the NCAAs and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

The victory was worth $412,500 and it also earned Zhang an automatic LPGA Tour membership.

Viktor Hovland wins the Memorial

DUBLIN, Ohio — Viktor Hovland handled the toughest stretch at Muirfield Village and delivered three clutch putts at the end to win the Memorial in a playoff over hard-luck Denny McCarthy.

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Hovland closed with a two-under 70 on another brutal test on a course baked all week by sun, forcing the playoff with a 30-foot birdie on the 17th — the only one on that hole in the final round — and saving par from behind the 18th green.

Back to the 18th in the playoff, Hovland barely got onto the front of the green, some 60 feet away from the back pin, and two-putted by holing a seven-foot par putt.

It was his fourth PGA Tour victory and first on American soil, this one with a $3.6-million winner’s check and a handshake from host Jack Nicklaus. The Norwegian’s previous wins were in Mexico twice and Puerto Rico.

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