Rookie Hae Ran Ryu wins first LPGA title at Walmart NW Arkansas

Rookie Hae Ran Ryu began the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship with a two-stroke advantage, and when the leaderboard bunched up Sunday afternoon, Ryu hit the gas on the back nine with a closing 29 to win by three.

The shot of the day came when Ryu hit her second shot within inches of an albatross on the par-5 14th. The well-struck 7-iron set up a short eagle putt.

Ryu, a five-time winner on the KLPGA, finished the tournament at 19-under 194 for the 54-hole event. She’s the fifth rookie to win this season, setting a new LPGA benchmark.

Sweden’s Linnea Strom finished solo second after a closing 64.

Ryu said she struggled with distance control on the front nine, recording a couple of bogeys after hitting her approach shots too far. She adjusted, and checked off a major goal for the year.

“Before the season, I want to get a Rookie of the Year,” said Ryu, “but now I got winner on the LPGA and I want to get Rookie of the Year and so now, so meaningful.”

Ryu came into the Arkansas event with a 113-point lead in the rookie race despite not yet winning on tour.

Lexi Thompson, coming off a strong Solheim Cup showing, posted her best finish of the season. The veteran American player briefly held a share of the lead at the midway point but played the last six holes in even par. Still, her closing 66 gives momentum to what’s easily been the worst season of her career. Prior to the Arkansas event, Thompson’s lone top-20 finish of the year came at the Kroger Queen City Championship.

“It’s the highest honor,” said Thompson of playing in her sixth Solheim last week, “and to be able to pull off some good shots and make some putts for my country, there is absolutely no better feeling.”

Lexi Thompson of the United States plays her shot from the 16th tee during the Final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G at Pinnacle Country Club on October 01, 2023 in Rogers, Arkansas. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Bianca Pagdanganan shot 65-64 over the weekend to vault into a share of third. The long-hitting Pagdanganan was 179th coming into the week on the CME points list and and in danger of losing her card. She’s projected to move to 77th after her strong performance in Rogers, Arkansas.

Pagdanganan played the last three holes birdie-birdie-eagle.

Ryu took home $345,000 for the victory.