Rose Zhang clings on to win the Mizuho US Open in a playoff at the LPGA Tour’s historic debut

Rose Zhang is now the first to win on her first appearance on the LPGA Tour since 1951. (AP/Adam Hunger)

Rose Chang wasted no time on the LPGA Tour.

Although she didn’t have her best ride on Sunday, Zhang lived up to the hype making her first professional start in New Jersey.

Zhang, arguably the best women’s amateur golfer in history, held on to win the Mizuho US Open Sunday afternoon at Liberty National Golf Club. The 20-year-old former Stanford star scored 2 over 74 in the final round on Sunday and upset Jennifer Copshaw in a playoff to win in her professional debut.

“What’s going on? I can’t believe it,” Chang said on Golf Channel. “It was just last week when I won the NCAAs with my teammates, and to turn professional and come out here, it’s been amazing. I enjoyed the ride… I had so many cheers around me, all my friends and family. I’m so grateful.”

Zhang is now the first person to win on the tour while making her debut as a professional since Beverley Hanson did in 1951, and the first person to win her first LPGA Championship since 2019. She is the first person ever to win an NCAA Division-I singles title and win on the LPGA Tour In the same season, something I did in just two weeks. Winning also grants Zhang automatic membership in the tour as well.

Zhang entered Sunday with a one-shot lead, thanks to a 6-under 66 in the third round that took her to 11-under for the week. Sunday started much slower, however, taking over the par-3 4th.

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Zhang rocked a straight 12 gallop after that, though she missed what should have been an easy birdie putt on par 4 16. That birdie would have given her two shots with two holes to go.

Zhang then expertly saved the par 3 17th with a massive 10-foot putt to keep her lead by one shot. As her drive on the final hole spun into the fairway bunker, she landed safely in front of the green. This led to a great look at the equalizer up and down to win, although Zhang’s shot was just right for the trophy.

Kupcho’s drive landed the first playoff hole in the high grass on the right of the fairway. Zhang wasn’t much better, as her ball landed in a bunker on the right. They both landed safely in front of the green, and Zhang bunted her down to the same position as the last time. This time, she made Zhang fall to save herself. But Copshaw matched it, so the pair returned to the 18th to play it a third time.

Kupcho and Zhang both found the fairway on their third over, though Kupcho’s approach fell short of the trophy on the front side of the green. Zhang stuck to a close range of about six feet from 180 yards. Although she was missing her birdie — she was the only player in the field on Sunday without a birdie — she included Copshaw with a hat-trick. Zhang’s equality was enough to secure her inaugural win.

“This golf course is rough,” Zhang said on Golf Channel. “I really got a little bit of everything, got a taste of the pressure, got a taste of the wind. I tried to stay calm as always. I knew golf was just grinding and that you really had to dig deep, so again that’s what I did. I’m happy to be here.”

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Kupcho took second place on her own with a 3 under 69 on Sunday. Hae-ran Ryu was shot at 8-under-week.

Zhang has dominated the sport as an amateur in recent years. She was the first woman to win back-to-back NCAA titles while at Stanford, and she set the single-season scoring record twice. She averaged 69.42 in the 62 innings in which she played collegiately, winning 12 of the 20 college tournaments in which she played. By comparison, Tiger Woods has won only 11 times in the 26 innings he has played at Stanford. Zhang also ranked number one in the World Amateur Golf Rankings for 141 consecutive weeks before officially turning professional this week.

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