Park trumps field for Open tri­umph

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

BED­MIN­STER, N.J. — Af­ter weeks of un­cer­tainty, the U.S. Women’s Open turned out to be what the USGA wanted: a good tour­na­ment on a good course.

Sung Hyun Park shot her sec­ond con­sec­u­tive 5-un­der 67 on Sunday and won a fi­nal-round bat­tle with front-run­ning Shan­shan Feng and teenage am­a­teur Hye-Jin Choi at Trump Na­tional Golf Club for her first LPGA Tour vic­tory.

Park, 23, birdied the 15th to move into a tie for the lead and the 17th to open a twoshot edge af­ter Choi made a dou­ble bo­gey to squan­der her chance of becoming the sec­ond am­a­teur to win the event.

Park fin­ished with an 11-un­der to­tal of 277, two shots bet­ter than Choi, who shot a fi­nal-round 71.

It was a far cry from a year ago when Park hit into the wa­ter on the 18th hole at CordeValle in Cal­i­for­nia and missed a play­off with even­tual win­ner Bri­tanny Lang and Anna Nordqvist by two shots.

“The ex­pe­ri­ence was def­i­nitely worth it, be­cause based on that good ex­pe­ri­ence that I had last year, I think I was able to garner the cham­pi­onship this year,” Park said through an in­ter­preter.

The USGA was crit­i­cized for not mov­ing the event

from Trump Na­tional af­ter com­ments made by President Don­ald Trump about women came to light dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign. There were threats of protests, es­pe­cially af­ter Trump de­cided to at­tend the tour­na­ment af­ter his trip to Paris on Thurs­day and Fri­day.

Trump ar­rived Fri­day and be­came the first sit­ting president to at­tend a Women’s Open, see­ing parts of the fi­nal three rounds. There was a small protest af­ter he ar­rived at his box near the 15th green shortly af­ter 3 p.m., but it was peace­ful.

Park shot an 8-un­der 63 to lead af­ter the first round of last month’s North­west Arkansas Cham­pi­onship in Rogers be­fore fin­ish­ing tied for 19th. She needed a fine chip from over the green on the par-5 18th hole to save par and win the $900,000 top prize from the $5 mil­lion event.

Walk­ing to the scor­ing tent to sign her card, she got a thumbs-up from Trump from his box.

“Well, to be hon­est with you, I still can­not be­lieve that it is ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing,” said Park, who is the lead­ing rookie on the LPGA Tour. “It’s al­most feel like I’m float­ing on a cloud in the sky. Of course, I did have many win­nings in other tour­na­ments, but win­ning here at U.S. Open means so much more.

Choi was the low am­a­teur for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year. She was 38th in 2016. The only draw­back was she

could not pocket the $540,000 sec­ond-place prize.

“I mean it will be nice if I could get the money but I think my pri­mary goal was to come here and com­pete so, to me, get­ting this sec­ond place in run­ner-up ac­tu­ally means more to me,” the 17-year-old said.

Top-ranked So Yeon Ryu (70) and fel­low South Korean

Mi Jung Hur (68) tied for third at 7 un­der. Feng, from China, had a 75 to drop into a tie for fifth at 6 un­der with Spain’s Car­lota Ci­ganda (70) and South Korea’s Jeongeun Lee (71).

South Kore­ans Sei Young Kim (69), Mirim Lee (72) and Amy Yang (75) tied for eighth at 5 un­der. Ma­rina Alex of nearby Wayne, N.J., was the

best of the Amer­i­cans at 4 un­der af­ter a 70. It was the worst fin­ish in the Open for the top American since Paula Creamer was seventh in 2012.

Af­ter a rough fin­ish Satur­day, Stacy Lewis (Arkansas Ra­zor­backs) bounced back from a 76 with a 1-un­der 71 to fin­ish in a tie for 27th to win $37,544.

Choi was the story for most of the fi­nal round. She had a two-shot lead with nine holes to play and needed a 5-foot birdie at 15 to re­gain a piece with Park, who had made a 20-footer in the group in front of her.

The 139-yard, par-3 16th over wa­ter ended Choi’s hopes. Her 7-iron landed in the wa­ter to the right of the hole. She ended with a dou­ble bo­gey and ba­si­cally lost her chance of win­ning.

“At the time I felt that all this work, hard work I put to­gether was go­ing to dis­ap­pear so I was bit dis­ap­pointed but I had to re­fo­cus,” said Choi, who birdied the fi­nal hole.

Choi’s 279 was the best by an am­a­teur in the Open, four shots bet­ter than the old mark by Grace Park in 1999. Cather­ine La­coste re­mains the only am­a­teur to win the Open, do­ing it in 1967.

Feng, who was the leader af­ter the first three rounds and car­ried a one-shot edge into the fi­nal 18 holes, triple bo­geyed the fi­nal hole.

“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.”

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