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Green gets close but no Portland LPGA win

Australian golfer Hannah Green has shot a final-round five-under-par 67 to finish in a tie for third at the LPGA’s Portland Classic.

The 25-year-old from Perth was in a group at 17 under – which included South Korea’s Narin An (64), German Esther Henseleit (66), Ayaka Furue (68) of Japan and American Lilia Vu (68).

The quintet finished two strokes behind behind first-time tour winner Andrea Lee of the United States and one adrift of Ecuador’s Daniela Darquea.

In a year of having to bounce back, Lee recovered from two early bogeys and pulled away with five birdies on the back nine on Sunday to close with a round of six under.

Lee took the lead for good with an 18-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole and then hit a superb bunker shot from left of the 17th green to save par and keep a two-shot lead.

She was in the middle of the 18th fairway when she watched Darquea finish with a third straight birdie to pull within one shot. Lee drilled her approach to 15 feet and lagged her putt to within inches to tap in for the win.

It was quite a turnaround for Lee, a former No.1 amateur whose game got off track to the point her LPGA status suffered and she started the year on the developmental Epson Tour.

And then she climbed her way out of it, winning on the Epson Tour, taking advantage of sponsor exemptions with solid play and finally cashing in at Columbia Edgewater Country Club for her first win.

Her face was awash in a mixture of champagne and tears, especially when she paid tribute to her grandfather, who died late last year.

“He always believed I was a champion, and today I am one,” Lee said.

Lee started in a three-way tie with Vu, another former No.1 amateur, and Furue. Lee immediately fell off the pace with bogeys on the second and third holes.

“I told myself to stay patient because I still had a lot of golf left,” Lee said.

“I managed to get three birdies back, and then I kept going.”

She finished at 19 under and moved to No.18 in the Race to CME Globe standings.

Darquea’s runner-up finish moved her to No.59, a big week because the top 60 advance to the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in November. Darquea had been ranked No.108 going into Portland.

Green, who went from 19th to 16th, was the best of the Aussie finishers with Sarah Kemp (70) at five under and Karis Davisdson (71) three under.

The real threat to Lee came from Henseleit, who took the lead with an 18-foot birdie putt on the par-3 13th. She had a six-foot birdie try on the next hole that caught the lip but didn’t drop, and she traded birdies with Lee along the back nine.

Henseleit was one shot behind when she came up short of the 17th green, pitched about 12 feet long and missed her par putt to fall two back.

Lee becomes the ninth first-time winner on the LPGA Tour this year.

“It’s more than anything I could have imagined,” she said.

“I can’t believe it, actually. I can’t believe I’m standing here after what I went through last year.”

With AP.

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