For the most part Sunday afternoon at the LPGA’s NW Arkansas Championship, it looked like hometown favorite and defending champion Stacy Lewis would take the title. Judging from the roars, it would be just fine with the crowd.
Even Na Yeon Choi didn’t see her ninth LPGA title coming, but she claimed it dramatically at Pinnacle Country Club, thanks in large part to eagle on the par-4 16th.
"I thought it was going to be good, but I didn’t expect it to go in," said Choi who struggled with her irons for most of the day. "I was very happy after that shot, but unfortunately I couldn’t see the ball going in. I just heard a lot of screaming around the green."
Choi, the second-round leader, trailed Lewis by a shot after her tee shot on the 16th. What followed was an 8-iron from 142 yards that one-hopped into the hole to give her a one-shot lead.
She followed with another 8-iron to a foot on the par-13 17th, leading to a second straight birdie and an eventual 2-under 69 for the day — enough to finish 15 under overall for her first win since a season-opening victory at the Coates Golf Championship in Florida.
Choi, No 20 in the Rolex Rankings, battled a cold putter and was even 1 over for the day before her eagle on the 16th. Lewis missed several birdie attempts in the group ahead of her.
"Those two shots, I think I have to remember for my future," said Choi, who earned $300,000 with the victory.
Mika Miyazato finished second at 13 under after a 67.
The ending was a difficult one for Lewis, who bogeyed her final hole for a 68 to tie for third with Azahara Munoz (66) and Anna Nordqvist (70) at 12 under. Second-ranked Lydia Ko had a 63 to tie for sixth at 11 under.
To make matters worse, Lewis has now gone 27 tournaments without a victory, her longest since a 25-tournament stretch between her first and second career wins in 2011-12.
"It’s tough, but honestly it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been in this position and a few months, really, so you can’t be too upset," Lewis said. "When somebody holes out and makes birdie on 16 and 17, you know, it’s one of those things that it’s kind of meant to be for (Choi)."