Linnea Strom Records Largest Comeback in LPGA Tour History; Wins 2024 ShopRite LPGA Classic at -14

 Linnea Strom Records Largest Comeback in LPGA Tour History; Wins 2024 ShopRite LPGA Classic at -14

By Joe Juliano


GALLOWAY, N.J. - Linnea Strom made a pressure-packed 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to make the cut Saturday and qualify for the final round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic, then told herself to enjoy Sunday’s stroll around Seaview’s Bay Course “and make as many birdies as I could.”


There was no way for Strom to know how many birdies that would be. But after she sank a 6-footer at No. 18 to the cheers of the crowd, and left the green with a smile as wide as her native Sweden, you knew it was a pretty special number.


How about nine birdies, plus an eagle for good measure, and 20 putts the entire round?


Strom’s score added up to an 11-under-par 60, the lowest round ever recorded in the 36-year history of this Jersey Shore event, and her first career LPGA Tour victory. And speaking of LPGA tournament history, her 54-hole score of 14-under-par 199 held for the rest of the day, giving her a 1-stroke victory over players who teed off around 3 ½ hours after she did.


Strom, 27, broke an LPGA record by coming back from a tie for 52nd at the start of the final round to win the tournament. LPGA records kept since 1984 showed that the old record was a tie for 23rd by Ayako Okamoto at the 1987 Lady Keystone Open.


Ranked No. 165 in the Women’s World Golf Rankings at the start of the week, she rallied from seven strokes down to win the tournament trophy and the $262,500 first-prize check from the total purse of $1.75 million.


“That’s very cool,” she said. “I’m obviously very proud of that. But it’s just golf and you should never give up, and I think that’s what I told myself going into today. It’s not over until that final putt has dropped. Obviously, it’s super cool. It was my personal best round today, so that’s pretty fun as well.”


Strom teed off in the third group of the morning. The catalyst of her round came at the par-5 ninth hole where she drained a 40-foot chip for eagle. Her sixth birdie of the day, at No. 14, put her into the lead at 11-under. She added to that advantage with successful birdie putts of 2 and 8 feet on 16 and 17 before her closing birdie on 18.


She said she went to the 18th tee not realizing she was an eagle away from a 59, which would match the all-time 18-hole record of Annika Sorenstam, her fellow Swede.


“I knew I had a good score going but I didn’t think I was that close to 59,” she said. “So obviously now it’s unfortunate that I wasn’t able to hit the green in two. But it is what it is and I did my best and I was happy I was able to make a birdie on that hole.”


It was quite a long wait for Strom, who completed her round at about 12:30 p.m. She spent her idle time with her father, Jonny, before going on the practice putting green and later onto the range as two contenders, Megan Khang and Ayaka Furue, made a run at her 14-under total.


“Time went quick,” she said. “I was wondering what I was going to do at the time. Waiting around 4 ½ hours, I don’t know. I had a longer lunch and just waited, then I went to the gym and did some stretching. Then I was ready to start my warmup again. It was interesting.”


Some of the time was spent speaking to her family and coach in Sweden and she watched the leader board “a little bit,” she said.


“I wanted to keep my eye on it,” she said. “I tried telling myself to mentally prepare for a playoff. I wanted to do as good as I could have but it’s hard to know when you don’t know what’s going to happen.”


Meanwhile, two of the higher ranked players in the field, No. 16 Megan Khang and No. 22 Ayaka Furue, seemed to have the best chance to equal or surpass Strom’s score.


Khang, seeking her second LPGA Tour victory, carded five threes on the first six holes of her back nine and reached 14-under by sinking a 6-foot birdie putt at the par-3 15th. But she was short of the green with her approach at the 16th, missed a 4-footer for par to drop a shot, and a poor chip with her third shot at the 18th led to a par 5.


Furue birdied six of her first 13 holes to get to 13-under but could not pick up one more birdie. Her last chance at No. 18 was marred with a bad chip for her third shot and a missed 18-foot birdie putt.


Khang called the chip “a poor effort” but was pleased with the way she played.


“It’s very impressive what Linnea did today to go out there and shoot 11-under and then wait around,” she said. “Ayaka played well too. It definitely gave myself some motivation to kind of get out there and chase and catch up. It’s definitely tough out there with the wind the way it was on the front nine. But I was very happy with the way I struck the ball and how I handled myself out there.”


The victory was an epic one for Strom, who had missed five of her previous six cuts going into ShopRite week. She had lost her LPGA card and joined the Epson Tour in 2022 in an attempt to regain her card, which she did. She returned to the tour in 2023 and won almost $600,000 but got off to a slow start this season.


However, her win Sunday did wonders for her confidence.


“Obviously there are moments you’re going to start doubting yourself, especially if you haven’t had a win out here,” she said. “There are so many good players out here and a lot of players that have wins and a lot of players that haven’t had wins.


“For sure, there have been moments where I’ve been doubting myself if I’m good enough to win out here. So it’s just very special to prove it to myself today that I do belong here. Yeah, it feels pretty special.”


And the strangest part of Strom’s journey this weekend was that, had she not sank that 12-foot birdie putt at the end of Saturday’s second round, she would have missed the cut and not have had a chance to even play on Sunday.


“I had a couple of tournaments this year probably four or five events, where I missed the cut by a shot,” she said. “When you do that week after week it kind of gets to you. You’re very hard on yourself and you feel sorry for yourself when you should be out there working harder.


“Holing that putt yesterday kind of just told myself that, OK, maybe this is actually going to be a good week after all. Yeah, it’s small margin.”


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