CLIFTON, N.J. (AP) — Jin Young Ko overcame a four-shot deficit to win the Founders Cup for the third time in five years, getting the victory on the first playoff hole Sunday when defending champion Minjee Lee three-putted for bogey.
In winning for the 15th time on the LPGA Tour and the second time this year, Ko shot a final round-best 5-under 67 in tough, windy conditions. The 27-year-old South Korean forced the playoff making a clutch downhill birdie from roughly 15 feet on No. 18 to tie for the lead.
Ko joins Lilia Vu as the only players with multiple wins on tour this year, earning $450,000 from the $3 million purse.
The players went back to the par 4 No. 18 at the Upper Montclair Country Club for the playoff. Both players hit the green with their second shots with Lee being about 15 feet away and closer than Ko, who had a winding putt from right to left.
Ko snuggled her birdie attempt to tap-in range and Lee went for the win, but putted it six feet past the hole, missing the par saver to the right. Ko tapped in and then ran over and hugged her caddie, David Brooker.
Lee gave away what would have been here ninth win on tour by squandering a three-shot 54-hole lead early and then blowing a two-shot lead with three holes to play with a bogey at No. 16 and the Ko's late birdie.
Lee shot a final-round 1-under 71 and finished the 72-hole event at 13-under 275.
Ko is the only player to repeat in this event, winning in 2019 and 2021. No event was held in 2020 because of COVID-19. Her three titles are the most by any winner in the event's 12-year history.
Ashleigh Buhai of South Africa, who won the AIG Women's Open last year, finished third at 10 under, a shot ahead of South Korean rookie Hae Ran Ryu in the event that honors the 13 founders of the LPGA Tour.
Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand, Aditi Ashok of India and American Angel Yin shared fifth place at 7-under — a shot ahead of Nasa Hataoka of Japan.
Lee started the round with a three-shot lead over Yin and Ashok with Ko in a group four off the lead. Ko closed the gap to two shots with birdies at Nos. 3 and 4, and Lee handed the other two shots back when she hit a "fat" iron at the par 3 No. 6 into the water for a double bogey.
That created a brief three-way tie for the lead with Yin at 10-under. Yin had started the day three shots off the lead and got to 10-under with a birdie at No. 2.
Ko briefly took the lead with a birdie at No. 7 and Lee answered from 10 feet minutes. Ko took at 1-shot with a birdie at the par-5 12th, but Lee opened a two-shot edge with birdies at 11, 12 and 15.
Lee opened the door for Ko with a bogey at No. 16 after missing the fairway and Ko walked in with a deft downhill birdie putt at No. 18.