‘This is the most meaningful win’: Lilia Vu outlasts Lexi Thompson, Grace Kim in overtime at Meijer LPGA Classic

Lilia Vu took some extra time returning from a lingering back injury, skipping a second major championship, and it seems to have paid off handsomely.

The former No. 1 started the day eight shots back and survived a three-hole playoff at the Meijer LPGA Classic against former champion Lexi Thompson and overnight leader Grace Kim to win in her first start since late March.

“I think this is the most meaningful win,” said Vu, “because there was a time two months ago where I was just crying on the range not being sure if I would every play a tournament again without pain.”

Thompson, who announced that she’s stepping away from a full-time competitive schedule at the end of this season, was vying to win on the LPGA for the first time in five years during what’s become a farewell tour.

Vu posted a closing 65, the day’s best round, to take the clubhouse lead at 16 under. As a number of players struggled down the stretch, Thompson nearly pitched in for eagle on par-5 18th to win it outright. Instead, she finished knotted with Vu after a final-round 68.

“It was looking good the whole way,” said Thompson of the pitch. “Honestly I probably would’ve putted it if that sprinkler wasn’t in my way, but I guess I’m kind of happy I didn’t putt it because I don’t think I would’ve putted it that close.”

Kim, who suffered a tough loss earlier this year at the JM Eagle LA Championship after enjoying a big lead, saw her five-stroke advantage in Michigan disappear in four holes. Still, the Aussie battled to keep in it and make it a three-way playoff at Blythefield Country Club, where fans were out in droves.

The trio went back to the 18th twice, making one clutch birdie putt after another. For the third playoff hole, the group went to the par-5 fourth.

It was there that Vu separated herself, getting up and down for birdie from a greenside bunker to claim her first title in 2024. The former UCLA standout won four times last season, including two majors, but has been riddled with injury this season, unable to to defend at the Chevron Championship.

“I think the breaking point, tipping point was Chevron,” said Vu. “Not being able to compete there really killed me. I feel like I thought I was taking the steps in the right direction, but I’m glad that I was able to take a couple months off and reevaluate my body, let it recover, do what I needed to do to get back out here again.

“And we did the right thing and took two months off. I think it hurt me not to play competitive golf because I literally live for competitive golf, but we did the right thing and that’s why I’m here today.”

Thompson called her 29 on the front nine Saturday one of the best stretches she’s had on the golf course. The 29-year-old shot 65 in the third round and came into Sunday five shots back. With a new caddie on the bag and a return to a conventional putting grip, Thompson looked lighter inside the ropes as she drained over 100 feet of putts in the third round.

On Sunday, she made a number of clutch putts late in the day.

“It was an amazing day out there,” said Thompson. “You know, the golf is one thing, but just to be able to play in front of all amazing fans, especially coming down the stretch and on the playoff holes.

“I don’t think I’ve heard cheers like that unless it’s like Solheim Cup, which is just an amazing feeling. I got chills every time.”

Kim said she tried to channel the extra nerves into good energy as much as she could. The 23-year-old is already looking to ahead.

“I think going the three playoff holes with the Player of the Year last year, two major champions and obviously Lexi just being an icon for women’s golf says a lot about my game I guess,” said Kim.

“Obviously didn’t get it done. Yeah, it sucks, but I think I can see myself I guess in the future as well. Just how much I’ve grown as well. It’s only my second year out, and to be in this position it’s, as you can tell, overwhelming.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek