There’s a new No. 1 in women’s golf, again.
American Lilia Vu cruised to a three-stroke victory Sunday at the LPGA’s Annika Driven by Gainbridge at Pelican Golf Club in Belleair, Florida. With her fourth triumph of the year, she moved to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings and to the top of the LPGA player-of-the-year standings entering this week’s CME Group Tour Championship.
This has been a magical coming-out season for Vu, a 26-year-old Californian. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand early in the season before claiming her first two major titles, the Chevron Championship and the AIG Women’s Open, before competing with the U.S. team in its Solheim Cup loss to Europe. Vu was ranked No. 1 in the world on two occasions this year, for a total of nine weeks, and now returns to the top spot.
“As long as I set my goal really kind of easy, just to be in contention on the weekend, then it kind of just somehow happens.”
“Each win of mine has had its own battle,” Vu said greenside at the 18th hole in the moments after her victory. “The wheels were kind of falling off a little bit early on the back nine. And then, Cole [Pensanti, her caddie] just said, ‘Hey, just play your game. One shot at a time, and we can make any putt from anywhere.’ Kind of kept that positive mind-set up.”
Vu has learned many things about herself this season, mainly “to not give up,” she said.
“I tend to be really hard on myself,” Vu said. “As long as I set my goal really kind of easy, just to be in contention on the weekend, then it kind of just somehow happens.”
Somehow happens, indeed.
Vu won at every level en route to the LPGA, racking up eight victories in three years at UCLA, and reigned atop the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking for 31 weeks in 2018-19. After turning pro in January 2019, she won three times on the Epson Tour in 2021 to earn a promotion to the LPGA.
True to form this season, Vu put herself in position to contend on the weekend with a flawless 8-under 62 on Saturday, trailing Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen by three strokes entering the final round.
Vu got off to a strong start on Sunday, making birdie on three of her first six holes, as Pedersen came back to the field. After a bogey at the par-3 12th, Vu added back-to-back birdies at Nos. 15 and 16 to open a three-stroke lead with two holes to play, cruising to the title. She signed for a 4-under 66 and a 19-under 261 total.
Pedersen could find none of the form that had produced rounds of 63-65-64 in the first three days. A five-time LET winner who was seeking her first LPGA title, she faded to a 4-over 74 and a tie for fifth, missing out on a top-60 spot and a berth in the tour finale with a double on the last hole.
Spain’s Azahara Muñoz and American Alison Lee shot closing 67s to share second place at 16-under 264. South Korea’s Amy Yang finished solo fourth at 15-under.
Vu tied Céline Boutier for most victories on the LPGA in 2023 and overtook the Frenchwoman in the race for the tour’s player of the year entering this week’s finale at Tiburón Golf Club in Naples. Boutier still holds the lead over Vu in the Race to CME Globe standings.