THE South Korean juggernaut continued as long-hitting Park Sung-hyun broke a three-way tie with two late birdies to win the US Women’s Open by two strokes at Trump National on Sunday for her first major championship and her maiden LPGA Tour title.
The 23-year-old Park, runaway favorite to win LPGA Rookie of the Year honors, birdied the par-5 15th to forge ahead in Bedminster, New Jersey, and, after co-leader amateur Choi Hye-jin double-bogeyed the 16th, added a six-foot birdie at the 17th for some cushion.
Park, who won seven times on the Korean LPGA Tour in 2016, saved par at the par-5 18th with a superb chip from a tight lie behind the green to post a 5-under 67.
As the poker-faced Park made her way from the 18th green to the scoring tent, she paused to wave and bow towards US President Donald Trump, who looked down from his bullet-proof, glass-enclosed private box.
“To be honest I still cannot believe this is actually happening. It’s almost like I’m floating on a cloud in the sky,” Park said through an interpreter after signing for 11-under-par 277.
The precocious, 17-year-old Choi found water off the tee at the par-3 16th to scuttle her chance for an historic win, but birdied the last to complete a 71 for sole second at 9-under.
The Korean dominance of women’s golf, providing seven of the last 10 US Women’s Open winners, was evident with the nation providing eight of the top 10 finishers, including the two new faces at the top who could further extend that domination.
Feng Shanshan of China, a seven-time LPGA Tour winner who had led since the opening round, hung in with a chance, needing to hole out from the fairway with her third shot for an eagle at the 18th to tie Park.
But after her shot bounded beyond the green, the 27-year-old Feng duffed her first chip and went on to card a triple-bogey for 75, finishing equal fifth at 6-under.
“I think overall, before the last hole I did pretty well,” said Feng, who had only two birdies in the last two rounds. “I mean I did a good job hanging in right there because my putting was not really that great.”
World No. 1 Ryu So-yeon (70) and compatriot Hur Mi-jung (68) shared third on 7-under.
For Park, it was a sweet bounce-back from last year’s US Women’s Open at CordeValle in California.
Park, the 36-hole leader, finished 74-74 there, losing a chance at the title when she hit into a water hazard on the 72nd hole and ended up third, two shots out of a playoff.
She timed her run better this time, carding 73 and 70 in the first two rounds and began the final day three strokes back before posting her second successive 67.
Choi narrowly missed becoming the second amateur in 72 years of the event to win and first since 22-year-old Catherine Lacoste of France hoisted the trophy 50 years ago at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia.
Meanwhile, defending champion Henrik Stenson will partner former world No. 1 Jordan Spieth in the first two rounds of this week’s British Open at Royal Birkdale.
Stenson and Spieth are scheduled to tee off with South Korean Kim Si-woo, who became the youngest winner at The Players Championship earlier this year, at 0947 local time on Thursday.
Stenson, who edged Phil Mickelson to win the title at Royal Troon last year, is bidding to become the first man since Padraig Harrington in 2008 to defend his title.
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson will partner Rory McIlroy and South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel. Masters champion Sergio Garcia will be joined by Australian Jason Day and 2015 champion Zach Johnson.
The first tee shot will be hit at 0635 local time by American Mark O’Meara, who was the winner in 1998 at Royal Birkdale.