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Lindberg, Park head to sudden-death playoff after action-packed final round at ANA Inspiration

After an afternoon — and evening — of intense competition in which nine players at some point grabbed a share of the lead, and after 22 holes to determine the first LPGA Tour major champion of the year, the winner is … undecided.

Pernilla Lindberg, the Swede who has had at least a share of the lead in the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage after each of the four rounds, and Hall of Famer Inbee Park will return to the Dinah Shore Course at Mission Hills Country Club at 8 a.m. Monday to decide a winner.

Lindberg, looking for her first tour victory in her 193rd start on tour, shot a gritty one-under-par 71 that included an interminable series of clutch par-saving five- and six-foot putts to stave off a host of challengers who quickly ate into the three-shot lead she started the day with.

She birdied the par-five 18th hole to get into a sudden-death playoff with Park, who has already won seven major championships, and former USC star Jennifer Song, who is also looking for her first win on the tour. Park and Song each shot 67. They finished regulation play at 15 under par.

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The three of them returned to play the 18th hole in sudden death, but nothing was decided until their third try on the hole, when Song was eliminated after missing a nine-foot birdie putt.

That left Lindberg and Park to return to the tee well after sunset, hoping to be able to track their balls as darkness began to envelop the desert. Floodlights and an electronic scoreboard helped light the green. They both parred the hole.

Ariya Jutanugarn shot 65 and Jessica Korda 66 to finish just out of the playoff at 14 under. Moriya Jutanugarn (69) and Charley Hull (69) were another shot back.

Lindberg began the day at 14 under par with a three-shot edge over Amy Olson, but the steady tee-to-green game that she had displayed over the first three rounds deserted her from the start. She bogeyed the par-four first hole, one of the easiest on the course, and added another bogey on the third.

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With the second bogey, she was suddenly in a six-way tie for the top and reeling.

Somehow, though she failed to hit fairways regularly and her iron play would generously be described as erratic, she began making par-saving mid-range putts that kept her at or near the top of the leaderboard. She got up and down from the sand on three of four holes on the back to remain in contention.

“I’ve always said that the putting has been the strength of my game,” Lindberg said. “I just love these greens. I’m seeing the lines, I’m starting it great, and I just feel really confident with the putter in my hand.”

Song was the first into the clubhouse at 15 under, having made a five-footer for birdie on 18. Park, in the next group, followed by making a four-footer to tie. And Lindberg, in the final group, hit her approach shot to three feet to make it a three-way playoff.

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None of the three could duplicate those shots on the first extra hole; they settled for pars.

Same thing on the second try, though Song missed a seven-foot birdie try that would have ended it.

On the third try, Song again missed her birdie try, and Lindberg and Park made theirs.

The Monday playoff will start on the par-four 10th hole, then move to 17 and 18 if necessary. Admission is free, with parking at Agua Caliente casino in Rancho Mirage.

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sports@latimes.com


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