Lydia Ko joins spectators in watching her drive off the sixth tee during Sunday’s final round. BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
Defending Marathon Classic champion Lydia Ko contended for the championship right down to the final hole in regulation on Sunday afternoon at Highland Meadows Golf Club.
She completed the final round for a tournament total of 13-under par 271. It appeared good enough to possibly put her in a four-way playoff to determine the winner.
However, Chella Choi and Ha Na Jang, playing in the final grouping, ended up shooting 14-under par 270, leading to a two-way playoff hole won by Choi which left Ko to settle on sharing third place with Shanshan Feng.
“I played really solid in the front nine,” said Ko, who earned $89,559. “I tried to do my best and give my all.”
After an opening round of 71, she followed with rounds of 66, 67, and 67.
PHOTO GALLERY: 2015 Marathon Classic Final Round
Commentary: Choi’s father/caddie, says good-bye to bag
If there were any regrets with how she played in her attempt to defend her Marathon Classic title, it was her work on the 13th hole.
She bogeyed the hole during the final two rounds.
As the reigning Marathon Classic champion, which typically comes with more media requests and demands than the rest of the field, Ko said that may have added to the pressure of going out and competing this week
“It may have a little bit, but it’s been great to get the support and it’s been fun all week,” Ko said.
KAUFMAN FINISHES STRONG: Kim Kaufman had it going on Sunday, shooting 5-under par 66 for the final round to finish at 8-under par 276 for the tournament.
Her final-round performance moved her up the leaderboard to finish among four to place tied for 14th.
“It was a great day overall,” Kaufman said. “It was probably the best day I have had in two years here.”
She had five birdies and avoided any bogeys.
After recording pars through the first two holes, she responded by sinking two straight birdies and a total of three over the next four holes.
Kaufman said her first birdie gave her an early lift she was able to carry through the round.
“I had a 15-foot birdie putt on 12, which was hole 3, and I had some good saves during the round,” she said.
She missed out on completing the round with another birdie when a 15-foot putt attempt was just off the mark.
Her long birdie try took place following a delay for her group on the green to allow for the group behind them to attempt their approach shots as a way to speed up play in response to weather concerns.
Kaufman didn’t allow the delay to serve as an excuse for settling for par on the final hole.
“I just kind of pushed my putt a little,” she said. “It’s still a great day.”
ATTENDANCE ON PAR: Despite rain delays and high temperatures and humidity during the final three days of the four-day LPGA tournament, Marathon Classic tournament director Judd Silverman said this year’s attendance wasn’t down from a year ago when a total of 50,000 attended.
“We’re ahead of where we were last year,” Silverman said.
Some of the final round crowd may have been caught off guard with players further along on the course when they arrived at Highland Meadows Golf Club.
Weather concerns prompted LPGA officials to decide on Saturday night to begin the final round tee times an hour earlier than scheduled to avoid a possible rain delay. It was the first time in the tournament’s history that the final round’s tee times were pushed up an hour.
Silverman said the early starting times were warranted based upon weather forecasts.
“We felt it was in the best interest of the spectators and players to move up the tee times to avoid lightning or thunderstorms,” he said. “Safety first.”
As it turned out, the final round took place without any stoppage of play that included Chella Choi winning a playoff hole by a stroke over Ha Na Jang to win the tournament.
A WINNING GRAB: Swanton resident Steve Pierce sat on the front row of seats in one of the grandstands at the 18th hole.
He revealed good instincts and good hands when Marathon Classic winner Chella Choi flipped the orange golf ball in his direction after she sank a short par putt to win the playoff hole over Jang to clinch the victory.
“It’s the winning golf ball, but I’ve never even heard of it,” said Pierce, of the Volvik golf ball that Choi used on Tour.
Volvik recognizes itself as the “No. 1 color golf ball on Tour.”
NO HOLE-IN-ONE: Maumee-based aboutGolf Limited, which is the official golf simulator for the PGA Tour and NBC Golf’s on-air simulator provider for the Golf Channel, gave away gas cards, but no car during the Marathon Classic.
The computer-generated golf simulation company had a golf simulator on site at Highland Meadows and allowed spectators to try the real-life simulator for a chance at winning a gas card or even a car.
Seven finalists determined by the closest drives to the pin over the four days were given one swing at making a hole-in-one on Sunday afternoon. However, none of the seven came close to sinking a hole-in-one on a simulated version of the St. Andrews Old Course No. 8 par-3, 168-yard hole.
Finalist Dan Buckman came closest to the hole, hitting a shot that landed 53.55 feet from the pin.
SHORT STUFF: For the second straight year, the LPGA decided to play No. 9 as a risk-and-reward hole, this time during Sunday's final round. A year ago, the same was done during the third round.
Using the regular women's member tees at Highland Meadows, the par-4 ninth hole played at 252 yards.
The false front and the hard slope to the right of the green were the hole's only defenses.
There were 31 birdies scored to go with 34 pars and five bogeys.
Surprisingly, there was just one eagle. Lexi Thompson's tee shot landed on the green, then rolled just off onto the collar, on the opposite side from the hole, about 40 feet away.
Not being on the putting surface gave her the option to have the stick remain in the hole when she putted and it was put to good use. Her fast-tracking putt hit the flagstick, popped up in the air and dropped straight down into the cup.
Thompson carded a 4-under 67 and tied for 18th place.
Dave Hackenberg contibuted to this story.
Alena Sharp reacts to a narrowly missed putt on the 14th green during the final round Sunday. BLADE/ANDY MORRISON
Ha Na Jang chips her ball from behind the green on No. 18 during the first playoff hole of the final round Sunday. BLADE/ANDY MORRISON
A fan stays in the shade to beat the head during the final round at Highland Meadows Golf Club. BLADE/ANDY MORRISON