A maiden victory for Gemma Dryburgh makes her the fourth Scot to claim an LPGA Tour title
After three rounds at the Toto Japan Classic, the trio of players atop the leaderboard at Seta Golf Course in Shiga had more to play for than merely a title. Momoko Ueda led by one, and as a member of the JLPGA in Japan, she would have the opportunity to accept full LPGA Tour status with a win. The same was true for Miyu Yamashita, who was two shots behind Ueda. For Gemma Dryburgh, who started the final round a shot back of Ueda, a victory would jump her far enough up the LPGA’s season-long points rankings to earn a spot in the 2022 season finale, the CME Group Tour Championship, which has one of the biggest purses in women’s golf.
As Ueda and Yamashita struggled, Dryburgh separated herself from the field. With a final-round 65, the 29-year-old Scot finished the tournament at 20-under 268, a career-best 72-hole score. She finished four shots ahead of second-place Kana Nagai.
“I was in Korea last week with friends and I said to them ‘I mention you in my speech’ as a joke. But it’s overwhelming to be honest,” Dryburgh said of claiming her first career LPGA title. “This has been a dream of mine for a long time. A lot of hard work has gone into this, so it means so much.”
With a 20-foot putt on the fourth hole, Dryburgh made her first final-round birdie, then added a second on No. 7 after her approach left her with a three-footer. When Ueda made a bogey on the ninth hole, Dryburgh had the lead, but then truly started to separate herself on the 11th hole. That’s where Ueda made a double bogey to Dryburgh’s birdie after the Scot hit a 4-hybrid to four feet.
She closed things out in style with four birdies over her final six holes to cap a bogey-free finish.
Dryburgh joined the LPGA in 2018 after playing college golf at Tulane, where she won twice. Entering the Toto Japan Classic, she was ranked 199th in the world. More importantly, she was 78th on the CME points list with the top 60 players after next week’s Pelican Women’s Championship qualifying for the CME Group Tour Championship. After the win, and the 500 CME points that go with it (she also earned $300,000), she’s up to No. 41. The no-cut event in Naples, Fla., has the fifth-largest purse on the LPGA Tour ($7 million). This will be the first time Dryburgh has qualified for the event.
The win is also significant to Dryburgh’s home country: she’s just the fourth Scot to win on the LPGA Tour and the first to do so since 2011 when Catriona Matthew won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.
Despite never having won on the LPGA before—and only earning $434,975 in her career previously—and this being her first time playing the Toto Japan Classic, Dryburgh was unexpectedly comfortable in the moment.
“I was surprisingly calm,” Dryburgh said after the win. “When I dreamt of this moment, I thought I’d be super, super nervous. I was nervous, I’m not going to lie. But I was incredibly calm to honest. Kind of focused on my breathing and that really got me through.”