Birthday girl Cao gets maiden CLPGA win in Zhuhai playoff

Cao Xinyu gives herself a memorable 18th birthday present as the rookie pro wins a second-hole playoff for her maiden China LPGA Tour title at the Guangdong Women's Open.
Birthday girl Cao gets maiden CLPGA win in Zhuhai playoff

Cao Xinyu poses with the trophy after winning the Golf Liquor Guangdong Women's Open at the Zhuhai Lakewood Golf Club in Zhuhai, south China's Guangdong Province.

Cao Xinyu gave herself a memorable 18th birthday present when the rookie pro defeated amateur Liu Yujie in a second-hole playoff for her maiden China LPGA Tour title in a wet and wild finale to the Golf Liquor Guangdong Women's Open.

After heavy rain forced the suspension of play for nearly an hour at 11.45am on Friday, both Cao and 14-year-old Liu returned to the Zhuhai Lakewood Golf Club composite layout to complete their third round. With each closing with a 2-under-par 70, the two players finished deadlocked on 7-under 209.

In the playoff, both players made two putts for par on the 401-yard 18th hole in the first hole of sudden death. Returning to the same hole again, Liu put her tee shot right into the rough. With Cao safely on the green in two, Liu put her approach to within seven yards of the pin after missing the green. She would then miss her par putt. Sitting 60 feet from the pin, Cao made no mistake in getting down in two putts to secure the win.

"I didn't believe in birthday luck until I made it today," said Shanghai native Cao, who earned 60,000 yuan (US$8,280) for the win. "It's a coming-of-age ceremony for me. It's my maiden win, which boosts my confidence. I believe that I can have good finishes next week in Singapore and Beijing Pine Valley at the end of this month."

Pakin Kawinpakorn (69) finished third at two shots back as the Thai stumbled to a bogey five on the final hole where she needed a birdie to join the playoff. Her compatriot, Dolnapa Zukphokinvanich, was two shots further back in fourth after a final round 70.

Cao, who joined the paid ranks earlier this year after posting five top-five finishes against the pros last season as an amateur on the CLPGA Tour, was three shots behind playing partner Liu going into the 15th hole. It was there at the 540-yard hole that she started an amazing run of three consecutive birdies highlighted by a 45-foot birdie putt at the 16th.

With the two players even at 7-under going into the final hole of regulation, Cao nearly lost when her approach missed the green landing 45 yards short. After her third shot went over the pin, she then made a dramatic 25-foot downhill putt to force the playoff as Liu two-putted for par from 45 feet.

Liu, daughter of table tennis great Liu Guoliang, the two-time gold medallist at the 1996 Olympics, missed another opportunity to get her maiden win against a pro field. Two weeks ago, the teenager was the overnight co-leader going into the final round at the Beijing Women's Challenge, where she finished equal 10th.

Her final round included four birdies over the first 11 holes and two bogeys.

"After Beijing, I knew how to play in the final round. I played well today. I can get full marks from the way I played. I made my best effort, especially in such poor conditions," said Liu, a winner of eight events on the amateur circuit over the past three years.

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