Mirim Lee wins Kia Classic for third win on LPGA tour

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CARLSBAD, Calif. — Mirim Lee shot a bogey-free 7-under par 65 Sunday to win the $1.8 million Kia Classic by six strokes over fellow South Korean So Yeon Ryu and American Austin Ernst.

Lee had a one-shot lead over Mi Jung Hur of South Korea when play began Sunday, then birdied five of the first nine holes at the Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad.

Birdies on the 15th and 16th holes helped Lee finish at 20-under-par 268, tying the record for the eight-year-old tournament set by American Cristie Kerr in 2015 when Lee finished second, two shots off the lead.

Lee had one-stroke lead heading into the final round of the 2015 Kia Classic, then fired a 2-under-par 70 in the final round, including double bogeys on the second and 17th holes, while Kerr fired a seven-under-par 65 to overcome a three-shot deficit.

Lee received $270,000 and a Kia Cadenza premium sedan for her third career victory on the LPGA Tour and first since 2014, when she won twice.

The 26-year-old Lee has also won three times on the LPGA of Korea Tour and once on the Ladies Asian Golf Tour.

“It’s been a long time to be (the) winner of (a) tournament, so I (was) kind of nervous before I (started),” Lee said through an interpreter.

The Kia Classic was the seventh tournament of 2017 on the LPGA Tour. There have been seven winners, four from South Korea. Lee’s margin was the largest of the year.

Ernst began the round in a three-way tie for fifth, four strokes off the lead, then shot a bogey-free 5-under-par 67, including birdies on the 16th and 17 holes, for her best round of the tournament.

“Today was really a solid round of golf,” said Ernst, who missed the cut in last week’s Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Phoenix. “Hit a bunch of greens. Gave myself a lot of the good looks.

I missed a few putts that just kind of rolled right over the edge today or just lipped out. Can’t complain about 5-under, bogey free. Take that pretty much any day.”

Ryu was in a five-way tie for eighth at the start of play Sunday, then shot a 6-under-par 66 with seven birdies and a bogey on the par-5 18th.

Hur shot an even-par 72 to drop into a five-way tie for fourth, eight shots off the lead.

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