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Blue Bay LPGA

Bailey Tardy grabs first LPGA title to add to her redemption story while denying Lydia Ko entry into Hall of Fame

March 10, 2024
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Bailey Tardy closed with a 65 at Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Courses, her best score in her LPGA career, to claim her first title.

Zhizhao Wu

Sunday at the Blue Bay LPGA set up for Lydia Ko to enter the LPGA's Hall of Fame. The Kiwi was tied for the 54-hole lead with Bailey Tardy and Sarah Schmelzel, neither of whom had won on tour before, a much more favorable set of opponents than staring down Nelly Korda at the LPGA Drive On Championship in January. Instead, Tardy denied the 20-time winner with a closing seven-under-par 65, breaking away with a blistering back nine to beat the field by four. Here is how Tardy won in China for her first LPGA victory.

Leaderboard

Win: Bailey Tardy, -19

2: Sarah Schmelzel, -15

3: Ayaka Furue, -14

T-4: Savannah Grewal, -13

T-4: Minjee Lee, -13

T-4: Lydia Ko, -13

What it means

Ko leaves Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Course still on the doorstep of the LPGA's Hall of Fame. A victory would have given Ko her 27th and final point needed to qualify. Ko can take some solace in remaining in the best form on tour, with a win at the Tournament of Champions in four starts this season, a playoff loss, and this week's T-4.

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Lydia Ko's Hall of Fame entry will have to wait another tournament as the 54-hole co-leader in China struggled with a closing 71 to finish tied for fourth, six shots back of winner Bailey Tardy.

Zhizhao Wu

Tardy goes from last year's U.S. Women's Open Cinderella story to a tour winner. The 27-year-old from Georgia held the 36-hole lead at Pebble Beach as a rookie before finishing T-4. She now secures her LPGA status for two years after playing on the Epson Tour from 2018 through 2022.

Securing tour status for two years hits home for Tardy, who narrowly missed out on earning her LPGA card from the Epson Tour money list three times. She finished sixth in 2020 (when the LPGA handed out only five cards due to the COVID-19 pandemic), 11th in 2021 (when they went back to 10) and 12th in 2022.

How it happened

At first glance, it appeared Schmelzel would be the one to charge ahead of the field on Sunday in China. She birdied the first three holes to lead by three. A pair of bogeys over her next three holes knocked Schmelzel's lead down to one. The eighth, where Tardy stepped up to the tee even par for the round, was where she started taking over the tournament.

"Tees were moved up on No. 8 so really took advantage of that hole and hit two really, really good shots and drained a long putt," Tardy said. "It was kind of if I'm going to make a move I need to make a move now."

Tardy's 51-foot eagle putt ignited her relentless charge the rest of the round, birdieing the ninth to take the lead and posting five more birdies on the back nine to continue pulling away.

Ko fell out of the picture after the opening side, trailing by five as she posted three bogeys. The No. 7 player in the Rolex Women's World Rankings never got back in contention, carding a one-under 71.

The only person at the tournament who thought she didn't have the trophy in her hand on the 18th was Tardy herself. In reality, the only thing that didn't go her way was missing a 10-footer to tie the tournament record to close out her win. Tardy settled with her seven-under 65, matching her best-ever round on the LPGA.

Quotable

"It was a lot of self-reflecting trying to figure out if I was even good enough to be on the LPGA, if I wanted it enough," Tardy said. "The life on the road is not for everybody, and so I just didn't know if this was the profession for me. Now that I'm an LPGA winner I'm so happy I stuck to it. This is a dream come true."

Best of the Rest

• Savannah Grewal (T-4), in her second professional LPGA start, carded a tournament-record eight-under 64 Saturday. The Canadian had her brother Jordan Grewal, a competitive table-tennis player, on the bag this week. While the LPGA rookie jumpstarts her year with an excellent finish, her brother heads off to the Olympic trials. Both siblings could end up in Paris, as up to two Canadian golf spots are determined by the World Rankings. Brooke Henderson (12) has the first one locked up, but Maddie Szeryk (251) in second is catchable. Grewal will be ranked for the first time when the Rolex Women's World Rankings come out next week, as she has not earned any points before this week.

• In finishing tied for seventh, Ruixin Liu claimed her career-best finish despite not touching her clubs the previous three months. Liu was treating her allergies, which have impacted her since her rookie season in 2019. The top Chinese finisher this week does not have full status on tour, but earned a start at the Se Ri Pak Invitational in two weeks with her top-10 showing. However, Liu texted that she cannot make it back to the U.S. for the tournament due to continuing her allergy treatment in China. However, her strong finish potentially will earn Liu a start at the Chevron Championship in April and give her more playing opportunities after the first reshuffle of the season.

• Ayaka Furue (second) earned her fourth top-10 of the season with a bogey-free 65 Sunday.