Nomura outlasts Kerr on 6th playoff hole at LPGA’s America Texas Shootout

IRVING, Texas (AP) — Hara Nomura never saw her ball land on the 18th green while playing the hole for the sixth straight time in a playoff. She heard the cheers though.

After her approach to 12 feet, Nomura almost made an eagle before a tap-in birdie and her third career LPGA Tour victory when Cristie Kerr missed her birdie chance. The windy Volunteers of America Texas Shootout finally ended at dusk, about 7 1/2 hours after they teed off Sunday.

“I don’t feel like I really win because of the playoff,” Nomura, the 24-year-old from Japan who lives in Hawaii, said through an interpreter when asked how she would celebrate. “But I’m here in Texas, I want to have a steak.”

Nomura, who had a five-stroke lead midway through the final round, also had to birdie the 18th hole at the end of regulation to force the playoff. She had given up the lead for the first time with a double bogey at No. 17.

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Kerr and Nomura finished regulation at 3-under 281 at Las Colinas Country Club, then played the 518-yard 18th six more times. There were five matching pars before Nomura’s two-putt birdie and Kerr’s 12-foot birdie chance missed left of the hole.

Kerr was trying to win consecutive tournaments. The 39-year-old American won in Hawaii two weeks ago, her 19th career victory coming nearly five months after knee surgery.

Nomura shot a 5-over 76. Kerr made the only birdie all day at the par-3 17th, and was leading by a stroke when she tapped in a par putt on 18 for a 74.

“I had a great comeback to even be able to get into the playoff,” Kerr said. “I mean, I had it, I had her on that second playoff hole when I was behind the green there and I just made an error and you can’t do that in playoffs.”

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On the second playoff hole, Kerr’s approach went through the green and onto a slope where spectators had been. She got to place her ball after three attempts to drop it, and after flubbed the chip after an extended time before the shot.

Kerr’s approach on the fourth playoff hole settled on the edge of a cart path, and she made an impressive shot for another birdie chance that she missed.

After Kerr made a 10-foot birdie at No. 17 and was still playing the 18th, Nomura made double bogey at the par 3 for the second day in a row. After two shots from behind the green, Nomura made what was a clutch 15-foot putt.

“Double bogey was really harsh,” Nomura said. “An eagle at 18 would win. I try to enjoy the rest.”

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That knocked Nomura out of the lead for the first time after also leading at the end of the second and third rounds, but her regulation-ending birdie got her into the playoff.

“I didn’t play great in the beginning of the round but I played awesome coming in,” Kerr said. “You know, it wasn’t my week. Still a pretty good week.”

It was the third consecutive day with challenging wind, but the most brutal with cooler temperatures in the 60s and winds steady over 20 mph with gusts of 40-45 mph. The scoring average Sunday for the 53 players left in the field was nearly 5 1/2 strokes over par and eight players shot in the 80s.

Jessica Korda shot a 73 to finish third at 1 under, a stroke ahead of Sung Hyun Park. Eun-Hee Ji, whose 70 was one of only two subpar rounds Sunday, tied for fifth with Angel Yin at 1 over.

Lexi Thompson tied for 17th at 4 over in her first tournament since a TV viewer-cited penalty imposed a day later cost her a likely victory in the LPGA’s first major of the season. She opened with a 69 before rounds of 72, 73 and 74.

Lydia Ko will remain the world’s No. 1 player for the 80th consecutive week, and for the 99th week in her career. She had to withdraw before the third round in Texas because of a swollen eye from an infection likely caused by allergies.

No. 2 So Yeon Ryu could have taken over the top spot in the world by finishing first or second, but had a closing 75 to tie for ninth. Ariya Jutanugarn, the third-ranked player who could have taken over No. 1 with a win, was a stroke off the 36-hole lead before consecutive weekend rounds of 76.