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Ally Ewing beats Sophia Popov to win inaugural Match-Play title

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Ally Ewing claimed the inaugural Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play title Sunday by defeating German Sophia Popov 2 and 1 in Las Vegas for her second career LPGA triumph.

Amid blazing conditions, the former Mississippi State star dropped a 3-foot putt on the 17th hole at Shadow Creek to clinch the victory as Ewing completed a 6-1-0 weekend in the final event before next week’s U.S. Women’s Open in San Francisco.

“It was exhausting. I think I was limping in on the finish line really,” Ewing said of the temperatures that lingered in the upper 90s throughout the tournament. “Fatigue was definitely a factor. Four rounds of stroke play, 18, 18, 18, 18 is a grueling week, especially if you’re in contention.

“This week was unlike any other. I’m definitely going to have to tape up the feet I think for another week next week, but well worth it.”

The 28-year-old Ewing, playing on her one-year wedding anniversary, grabbed an early lead on the front nine after Popov bogeyed the par-4 second hole and birdied No. 6 to go 2 up. Popov pulled within one after Ewing bogeyed the par-4 11th, but Ewing sunk a magical 60-foot putt on 14 for birdie to regain the two-stroke lead.

“The pin was actually closer to the front and I had about a 40-footer there this morning and I made it,” Ewing said afterward. “So I certainly wasn’t trying to make — a putt of that range you’re just trying give to good speed and get it right there around the hole, but the line and the speed matched and it rolled in.”

Popov, who told media members that she is good friends with Ewing, admitted the decisive round turned on Ewing’s long-range putt on 14.

“I think if it hadn’t hit the hole could have been maybe five, six feet by and I think the scenario is totally different,” said Popov (5-1-1) after her first defeat at the match-play event. “But she made that putt, and I think for me personally it was probably — especially after playing that many holes, I think it was just a real momentum killer, a little bit of a dagger in the heart.”

Ewing reached the final by earlier ousting Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, 3 and 2. Ewing never fell behind in the match, although Jutanugarn fought back to tie twice in the first six holes. But Ewing knocked down a birdie on No. 7 and eagle on No. 9, never again losing the lead.

Popov earned her spot in the final match with a comeback 1-up win over Shanshan Feng of China. Trailing by two shots after 11 holes, Popov picked up consecutive holes on Nos. 12 and 13, then capitalized on Feng’s bogey on No. 17 to eventually pull out the win.

Feng conceded the third/fourth-place match to Jutanugarn, citing the heat and desire to maintain her energy ahead of next week’s U.S. Women’s Open.

–Field Level Media

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