Inbee Park wins LGPA Golf Championship
South Korean star wins sudden-death playoff to claim title
Fatigue gave way to relief for Inbee Park upon learning that playing 36 holes in one day wasn’t going to be enough to win the LPGA Championship.
Rather than fret about the eight fairways she missed and the three-shot lead she relinquished on the back nine on Sunday, Park refocused before the first sudden-death playoff hole against Catriona Matthew.
“Nothing seemed to be working, So I really cleared my head, and just looked at the fairway,” Park said. “And I just smashed it.”
It took three playoff holes, but the top-ranked South Korean star persevered by draining a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th to outlast Matthew and capture her second major of the season and third overall.
It was a dramatic finish to a long day in which organisers were forced to squeeze in the final two rounds after torrential rain postponed the first round on Thursday.
By 8pm local time on Sunday — about 12 hours after Park teed off to open the third round — a winner was finally decided.
“It’s almost a miracle that I won today,” Park said. “I think I got lucky there, too. And I really tried to fight off and tried not to give up. That really paid off.”
Park closed with a 3-over 75 to match Matthew at 5-under 383.
The 42-year-old Matthew, from Scotland, got to the playoff in an altogether different fashion. She finished with a bogey-free 68 before anxiously waiting to see whether that was enough to give her a shot.
“When I started the last round, I probably didn’t realise I could win,” said Matthew, who was seven shots back when the round began. “So to play well and get into the playoffs was obviously pretty good. Obviously, when you get into it, it’s pretty disappointing. But overall, a pretty good week.”
After both Park and Matthew made par on the first two playoff holes, Matthew struggled off the 18th tee on the third. She had difficulty advancing the ball out of the rough just below the green on her third shot and then missed a 50-foot par chip.
“I don’t think fatigue was a factor during the playoff,” Matthew said. “I think just the adrenaline of being in the playoff kept you going. I certainly didn’t feel tired during the playoff.”
Norway’s Suzann Pettersen and American Morgan Pressel finished in a share of third, a shot behind the leaders. Pettersen had the low round for the tournament, closing with a 65.
Pressel collapsed after opening the day with a two-stroke lead through two rounds at 6-under 138.
“I’m definitely disappointed, but it’s the first time in a long time I’ve contended,” said Pressel, winless since 2008. “I’m happy with the way that I played this week as a whole. I had chances. Nothing went in. And that happens.”
Amy Yang, Chella Choi, Jiyai Shin and Sun Young Yoo finished tied for fifth at 3-under 285, while defending champion Shanshan Feng, Michelle Wie and Na Yeon Choi were another stroke back at 2-under 286.
Sixteen-year-old amateur Lydia Ko of New Zealand shot a final-round 69 to finish in a share of 17th place at 1-over 289, equalling her best finish at a major. She also finished in a tie for 17th at last year’s British Open.
The 24-year-old Park won the Kraft Nabisco in early April to add to her title at the 2008 US Women’s Open. With the win on Sunday, Asian players have now won nine straight majors.
Park became only the seventh player to win the LPGA Tour’s first two majors in a season, and the first since Annika Sorenstam won the same two events in 2005. She has seven career LPGA victories, six in her last 22 starts.
Trailing Pressel by five shots midway through the third round, Park surged into a one-shot lead with birdies on four of her final six holes for a 68.
She was even with Pressel at 7 under after nine holes in the final round, then opened up a three-shot lead after draining a 3-foot putt on No. 11 while Pressel bogeyed Nos. 10 and 12.
Park, however, couldn’t close, and had to scramble to make a bogey on the 18th. She flew her tee shot into the left rough, and barely advanced the ball with her second shot. After her third shot landed in the rough about 25 feet above the hole, she putted to within 16 inches on her par attempt before sinking it for a bogey.
It was the eighth playoff in the LPGA Championship’s 59-year history, and the first since 2008 when Yani Tseng needed four holes to defeat Maria Hjorth.
In claiming the $337,500 first prize, Park increased her season winnings to $1.22 million, and moved into 25th on the LPGA Tour’s career list at just under $6.5 million.