The leader after each of the first three rounds, Pernilla Lindberg shot a final-round 71 on Sunday, highlighted by a birdie on the 72nd hole, to reach 15-under par and join Inbee Park and Jennifer Song in a playoff to decide the 2018 ANA Inspiration.
“I didn’t look at the leaderboard all day. I just had a number in my head all day and that number was 16, so that was a good guess,” said Lindberg on Sunday night.
“Obviously, I didn’t get to 16, but I knew, actually, walking off the 18th, Daniel, my caddie, told me I had to make a birdie to get into the playoff, and I did it.”
Playing the 18th hole late on Sunday night, each member of the trio carded pars, twice. On the third play of the famous 18th hole, Song was eliminated with a par, after both Park and Lindberg made birdie.
“I definitely want to win an LPGA event out here, but today I learned that I could be in that spot, so I’ll do my best to get that win,” said a disappointed Song following her ouster.
With the sun now completely gone from the California sky, the two finalists, Park and Lindberg, agreed to play No. 18 one more time. After each made birdie, play was suspended for the day due to darkness.
“It’s so cool. I almost get goose bumps now while you’re telling me about it,” said Lindberg, following the final extra hole on Sunday.
“Inbee’s one of the best female golfers of all time. So to even have a chance to go out and beat her in a playoff, I think I’m going to sleep great tonight, and I’m going to be ready to go in the morning.”
At 8:00 am on Monday, Lindberg and Park resumed their playoff match from the 10th hole at the Dinah Shore course.
On No. 10, the fifth playoff hole, but first of the morning, Lindberg nearly holed a 35-foot putt for birdie, coming about 2-3 rotations short. Park missed her own 25-footer, and after both settled for par, the match moved to the par-3 17th hole, their sixth playoff hole.
Both players missed the green with their tee shots, and left their second shots well short of tap-in range. After Park drained a 15-footer, though, it seemed Lindberg’s Cinderella run was over, but she responded with a clutch 10-footer to extend the playoff.
Now playing the par-5 18th again (extra hole No. 7), both players got their balls to within make-able birdie range. After Park missed a 10-footer, it seemed Lindberg, who had been making every putt from 5-10 feet all week, was on the verge of her first victory, but she badly missed the 7-footer.
The playoff moved back to the tenth for extra hole No. 8. Lindberg was away, but drained a 30-foot birdie to the back of the cup. And after Park missed her 15-foot birdie attempt, Lindberg was finally a winner, and a major champion to boot.
“I mean, I just know I’m a grinder, and it was just, I said yesterday, I just felt this is mine,” said Lindberg after her first career victory.
“I’m going to do this. I just knew I could, and I just kept fighting away. I couldn’t believe when that last putt went in.”
With her win, Lindberg earned $420,000, and now has won $461,036 on the season and $2,347,545 in her career. She also picked up 625 points and is projected to move from 62nd to sixth in the Race to the CME Globe with 728 points.
In addition to the winner’s check and points, Lindberg receives all kinds of job security, including a five-year exemption on the LPGA Tour; a lifetime exemption into the ANA Inspiration; and a five-year exemption into the U.S. Women’s Open, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the Ricoh Women’s British Open and the Evian Championship.
FINAL TOP 10
1 Pernilla Lindberg -15
2 Inbee Park -15
2 Jennifer Song -15
4 Ariya Jutanugarn -14
4 Jessica Korda -14
6 Moriya Jutanugarn -13
6 Charley Hull -13
8 Ayako Uehara -12
9 Caroline Masson -11
9 Amy Olson -11
9 Jodi Ewart Shadoff -11
9 Sung Hyun Park -11
Lindberg jumps into Poppie’s Pond with her caddie-fiance Daniel Taylor, and her parents Jan and Gunilla Lindberg.
VIDEO: THE WINNING PUTT
“I’m going to be looking at myself as a little bit of a different player. I just proved so much to myself this week, being able to do this. So I’m just going to go out every week, probably, with more confidence. I just feel that I can plan my year a little bit better too, kind of knowing I can kind of pick and choose everything a little bit better. Yeah, I’m just going to feel really good about this for a long time.”
– Pernilla Lindberg
Credit: LPGA Communications, Getty Images