Ai Suzuki wins 1st LPGA Tour event at Japan Classic

Overnight leader Ai Suzuki shot a bogey-free 5-under 67 on Sunday to win the Japan Classic by three strokes for her first LPGA career victory.

Suzuki carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-5 18th hole at the Seta Golf Course in Shiga to finish with a 17-under 199, three shots ahead of Hyo Joo Kim (66).

“This one is special because it’s a US LPGA tour event,” Suzuki said through a translator. “It’s beyond Japan, an International event.”

Suzuki is the second straight Japanese winner of the Japan Classic following Nasa Hataoka. With the win, Suzuki, a regular on the JLPGA, becomes eligible for LPGA Tour membership.

“It was my dream so I feel like I want to challenge,” Suzuki said. “But I can’t speak English so I need to talk to my family because I need their support.”

Minjee Lee finished in third place at 11-under 205 after shooting a 68 in the final event of the LPGA Tour’s Asia Swing.

Jennifer Kupcho of the United States was tied for fourth with Jin Yang of China after a 68 left her seven strokes back.

Gaby Lopez, who started the final round in second place three strokes back, offset a pair of birdies with two bogeys for an even-par 72 that left her tied for sixth place with three others, including two-time Japan Classic winner Shanshan Feng (70).

Lexi Thompson, making her first start since the Indy Women in Tech Championship in September, was tied for 24th place after a 71.

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