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Yang triumphs; Saso ties for 23rd; Pagdanganan wavers

MANILA, Philippines – Amy Yang put up a sweltering backside run to turn a one-stroke deficit into a convincing triumph, beating Japanese Nasa Hataoka and American Alison Lee by three with a six-under 66 for the coveted CME Group Tour Championship crown in Naples, Florida Sunday (Monday Manila time).

A decisive birdie-birdie finish wrapped it all up for the 34-year-old Yang, who drove past Hataoka with a birdie on No. 10 and a pitch-in eagle on the par-4 13th on her way to a 31 and a six-under card that left her rivals scrounge for the crumbs of a runner-up finish.

Yang pooled a stirring 27-under 261 total in a dominant performance at the Tiburon Golf Club’s Gold course that included rounds of 68-63-64 as she claimed her fifth LPGA crown worth a whopping $2 million.

Reflecting on her win, Yang said: “I didn’t know I would win until I birdied the 17th. Nasa (Hataoka) is such a great player and showed a lot of good performance out there and I was feeling really nervous. I had no idea where this was going. All I could do was just stick to my game and trust it.”

Yang thus joined the ranks of Korean players who have triumphed in the circuit's season-ending championship, following Sei Young Kim in 2019 and Jin Young Ko in 2020 and 2021.

“I still can’t believe I did it. So great to have, and feeling honored to have my first win in the US,” said Yang, who won three LPGA Honda titles in Thailand and one in Korea.

Tied with Yang after 54 holes, Hataoka took control with a frontside 34 but failed to match Yang’s scorching windup. She hit two birdies but made a bogey on No. 16 and wound up with a 69 for a 264.

Lee matched that 24-under total with a solid 66 spiked by four backside birdies.

Earlier, Yuka Saso went 14-of-14 off the mound and finished with 26 putts. But the 2021 US Women’s Open titlist wrestled with her irons and wedges and went out of regulation six times, including two that led to double bogeys on Nos. 4 and 6.

She birdied the first two holes to move from a share of 17th to joint 11th but fell off the leaderboard just as quickly with those mishaps. Though she battled back and racked up four birdies in a five-hole stretch from No. 8, the ICTSI-backed shotmaker