Ji birdies last for U.S. Women's Open title

Bethlehem, PA (Sports Network) - Eun Hee Ji rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday to earn her first major championship at the U.S. Women's Open.

Ji shot an even-par 71 in the final round to finish at even-par 284.

Candie Kung was warming up for a potential playoff when Ji made her putt. Kung carded her second under-par round of the weekend, a two-under 69 on Sunday, but came up one short at plus-one.

Overnight leader and 2007 U.S. Women's Open champion Cristie Kerr struggled to a four-over 75. She tied for third place with In-Kyung Kim, who managed a one- under 70 on Sunday. The pair finished at two-over 286.

Ji and Kerr walked to the 18th tee at Saucon Valley, both with a chance to either force a playoff or, in Ji's case, win outright.

Ji landed in the fairway, then hit her approach 25 feet left of the stick. Kerr's second came up 30 feet short and her birdie chance to match Kung at one-over narrowly missed.

Ji calmly rolled in her birdie effort for her first major title and her second LPGA Tour victory.

"I was very nervous before the last putt and quite frankly I am still very nervous," Ji said through a translator.

All it took for Ji to get her first major was three birdies in her last six holes. It was exactly what was required since she trailed by three with six to go.

Ji appeared to have shot her way out of the tournament at the 10th, a great risk/reward par four. She elected to hit driver and landed in a bunker. Ji's second stayed in the trap and she walked off with a double-bogey.

"I was extremely disappointed with the double-bogey there," said Ji.

She fell down the leaderboard, but after two pars, began her comeback.

Ji birdied the 13th, then sank a long birdie try at the par-four 14th. That got her back to one-over for the championship, trailing only Kung, who got to even-par after four birdies and a bogey through her first 16 holes.

Kerr lost the lead for the first time since Friday afternoon when she missed a four-foot par save at No. 13. Kim, playing a few groups ahead, also got to one-over, meaning Kung had a one-stroke lead over Ji, Kerr and Kim.

The first to fall was Kim. She bogeyed the closing hole and got into the clubhouse at two-over par.

Next, it was the leader's turn.

Kung landed in a bunker at the par-three 17th and blasted out 12 feet past the hole. Her par save died left of the hole and she kicked in her bogey putt. That dropped her into a tie with Kerr and Ji.

After a nice par save at 15, Ji and Kerr moved to No. 16 tied with Kung, who was now in the clubhouse at 285. Both Ji and Kerr hit spectacular approaches into the 16th green. Ji hit it six feet over the stick, while Kerr left herself with 10 feet from under the hole.

Kerr ran her birdie putt five feet past the hole. Ji barely missed her birdie try, then Kerr missed her par putt to fall one off the lead.

On the par-three 17th tee, Ji came up almost 30 feet short. Kerr, who was seen kicking her bag several times in frustration, hit it very close to Ji's ball and both two-putted for par.

That left 18.

Ji needed a birdie for the outright win, while Kerr needed a birdie and a par or worse from Ji to get in a possible playoff with at least Kung, who made her way to the practice putting green.

Ji's second at the closing hole rolled up to 25 feet. Kerr took dead aim at the flag, but her ball came up short and rolled down a ridge to 30 feet. Kerr's birdie putt almost fell to get her to plus-one, but it wouldn't have mattered.

Ji buried her birdie putt to become the fourth South Korean to win this title.

"Dream come true, that's what this means," said Ji, who pocketed $585,000 for the victory. "I was able to play it out."

Despite Kung being the runner-up, the player that let this one get away was Kerr. She had the only major championship experience of those closest to the lead and took a two-shot cushion into the final round.

"I don't really think it's going to bother me too much, because I don't feel like it was mental. I felt like it was more physical today than mental," said Kerr. "Obviously it was a little bit off and it's unfortunate."

Kraft Nabisco Champion Brittany Lincicome carded a one-under 70 and took fifth at three-over 287.

Paula Creamer and Ai Miyazato both shot rounds of two-under 69 and shared sixth with Suzann Pettersen, who posted a 71, at four-over 288.

World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa is majorless in 2009. She posted a one-over 72 on Sunday and was part of a large group tied for 26th place at plus-nine. Last year's winner, Inbee Park, and Juli Inkster were also in that logjam.

07/12 19:40:40 ET