Lilia Vu closes in on LPGA Player of the Year after come-from-behind win
For the second time in her past six starts (and fourth time this LPGA season), Lilia Vu found herself atop the leaderboard once the final putt had dropped, earning a stunning victory at the Annika Driven by Gainbridge.
The 26-year-old Vu began Sunday three shots back of leader Emily Kristine Pedersen, but started strong to leave the rest of the field in her dust, ultimately finishing at 4-under on the day, and finishing at 19-under for the tournament.
The three-stroke win over Allison Lee also returns her to the top of the Rolex Rankings.
Vu recognized that her final round was a bit drama-filled, but she rose above the pressure thanks to some tips from her caddie, Cole Pensanti.
“I think each win of mine has had its own battle, and I think today was again myself … I think the wheels were falling off early in the back nine,” Vu said. “Then my caddie said to me, ‘Hey, it doesn’t matter where you hit it on the green; you can make a putt from anywhere.’”
With three birdies in six holes to open her round on Sunday, Vu established a tone that stuck with her the entire day, relentlessly hitting every shot she needed to in order to pull away.
“I think that [pep talk from Pensanti] flipped my mindset,” she added. “I was getting negative and then just flipped a switch and just thought positive thoughts, and then it just all worked itself out.”
The victory at Pelican Golf Club is a crucial one for Vu, and now places her 27 points ahead of Celine Boutier in the Rolex Player of the Year race. With just one tournament left on the LPGA schedule — next week’s CME Group Tour Championship — Vu’s win puts her in prime position to earn the distinction.
Even if Boutier should win at the CME Group Tour Championship, Vu can still finish within the top 8 in order to capture LPGA Player of the Year honors.
If she manages that, Vu would become the first American to win the award since 2014 when Stacy Lewis did it.
For now, she’s focused on this weekend’s victory, leaning on little nuggets that she can learn from as she enters next week’s finale.
“It’s mindset. I think it’s all been mindset for me,” Vu said. “I’m not a technical player. I try and play the course the way it’s given to me and then just go from there.
“The next shot could be the best shot you ever hit. And that’s a mindset I think about all the time. I think that helps with calming the nerves and doing what’s in front of me and being where my feet are.”
With her confidence beaming at the moment, Vu appears ready for her next challenge.
“I know I tend to be hard on myself,” Vu said. “As long as I set myself kind of easy, just to be in contention on the weekend, then it kind of just somehow happens.”