The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

In Gee Chun wins Women’s PGA title after Lexi Thompson falters late

In Gee Chun is a three-time major champion after prevailing Sunday at Congressional. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

In Gee Chun leaned over her ball on the 18th green — at the 72nd and final hole of the Women’s PGA Championship — then swung her putter back and delivered a pure, authoritative stroke.

The rousing ovation and fist pump that followed after the ball vanished into the cup got the celebration started for the wire-to-wire winner in the first women’s major at Congressional Country Club.

“I made it,” Chun said later Sunday while standing next to the glistening, oversize trophy. “I’m so happy I made it. My body is still shaking, though.”

She won by a stroke at 5-under-par 283.

Several paces off the green stood Lexi Thompson, who moments earlier had hugged her caddie, Will Davidson, after she missed a 12-foot birdie putt that would have put her in position for a playoff. It was the last of too many misses with her least reliable club, and she was unable to protect another lead on the back nine in the final round of a major.

Sunday's leader board

This time, a two-stroke advantage evaporated, with agonizing misses for par at Nos. 16 and 17 preventing Thompson again from securing the second major title of her career. Since prevailing at the 2014 Inspiration, Thompson has been a runner-up at a major four times.

So despondent was the sixth-ranked player in the world that Thompson, with apologies, did not stick around to speak with reporters to address a swoon reminiscent of the U.S. Women’s Open in 2021, when she finished third after she held a five-stroke lead with eight holes to play at Olympic Club in San Francisco.

“I didn’t want to think about any other golfers’ play,” said Chun, who shot a 3-over 72 and overcame five bogeys for the third major title of her career and her first since the 2016 Evian Championship. “I’m a player, too, so when I see someone miss a short putt, my heart is hurt because I understand.”

The victory delivered Chun $1.35 million, the second-largest winner’s check in LPGA Tour history behind the one handed out at the U.S. Women’s Open this month. The total purse of $9 million also was the second largest in history.

In a tie for second with Thompson (1-over 73) was Australian Minjee Lee, the world No. 3 who happens to be neighbors with Chun in the Dallas suburbs. Lee shot a 2-under 70, including five birdies, after opening the final round on a wind-swept afternoon by bogeying her first two holes.

“After my start I really just wanted to get back to even, but I hit some really good shots out there and gave myself little birdie opportunities despite a little bit harder conditions,” said Lee, who birdied No. 18, statistically the most difficult hole this week. “I’m quite happy with how I finished.”

Short putts, long a glitch in Thompson’s otherwise pristine game, betrayed her throughout the round — including at the 14th green, where she pulled a one-footer for par. The gasp-inducing result unfolded as Thompson almost fell out of her stance upon striking the ball.

Two holes ahead, Lee had an eagle putt of some 15 feet. She missed a foot to the right and tapped in for a birdie, her fourth of the round, to draw within a shot of the lead. A bogey at No. 17 dampened the mood.

Thompson regrouped at No. 15 with a 3-wood splitting the fairway and an approach that settled in the fringe less than an inch off the putting surface and 12 feet from the hole. She made that birdie.

But after going for the green at the par-5 16th, Thompson hit her chip from the fairway thin and overshot the green to the landing area on the other side. She putted from there, connecting with too much velocity and sending the ball 15 feet beyond the hole.

Women’s PGA runner-up Minjee Lee remains solidly among the world’s best

Two putts later, Thompson had carded her third bogey on the back nine. Before her sixth stroke, Chun, whose approach with a wedge from 100 yards came to rest eight feet below the hole, made a birdie putt to get to 5 under and into a tie for first with Thompson.

Thompson had a 15-footer at No. 17 for a birdie but curled the attempt an inch to the left. The ball stopped four feet past the hole, and she pushed that par bid with another uneasy stroke, allowing Chun to take the lead for good.

“I think every player when they play from the last group on the last day, everyone has pressure,” Chun said. “So I thought this pressure is not just me. Then the key is who can handle it well.”

Thompson had done just that in the early stages of the round, providing an indication she was more comfortable chasing than protecting the lead when she boomed her drive at No. 1, landed her approach to four feet and made the birdie putt. A 15-footer for a birdie dropped at No. 3, one hole after Chun made her first of four bogeys on the outward nine.

Chun absorbed a second bogey at No. 4, where Thompson ascended into first place for the first time in the tournament with a routine par. The margin grew to two strokes at the 585-yard par-4 ninth, the longest hole of the 6,894-yard layout.

Thompson’s approach there landed in the right fairway, several paces short of the green, and she chipped to four feet. Her birdie bid grazed the right edge of the cup but did not fall, leaving a tap-in. Chun uncharacteristically missed for par from roughly five feet before the drama unfolded on the back nine.

“Probably give her a huge confidence boost,” Lee said when asked what the win would mean for her close friend. “I guess she hasn’t won for quite a while ... so I think she’ll be really, really happy and just grateful for everyone around her.”

Read more golf news

U.S. Open: A stunning shot on the final hole and a birdie miss from Will Zalatoris gave Matt Fitzpatrick his first major title.

LIV Golf: The Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series, controversial and lavish, figures to present some level of harm to the stately old PGA Tour. Players are noticing.

Barry Svrluga: “LIV Golf? At the moment, at least, it feels like it has more legs. This is more than an existential threat to the way professional golf is staged and the way professional golfers make their schedules and their livings. This is an actual threat.”

The Shark is on the attack again: With decades of resentment and an appetite for combat, golf legend Greg Norman is throwing his sport into chaos. This time, he’s doing it with Saudi money.