Park’s climb ends with Open crown

Six birdies in fi­nal round erase three-shot deficit for South Korean

The Washington Post - - SPORTS - BY JESSE DOUGHERTY

bed­min­ster, n.j. — At the end of the four days, which were filled with ru­mors of President Trump’s ar­rival, re­ac­tions to his pres­ence, buck­ets of rain and pock­ets of mouth-dry­ing hu­mid­ity, there was Sung Hyun Park stand­ing just be­low the green at the 18th hole.

Park, who took all day Sunday to make a me­thod­i­cal climb up the leader board, held a twostroke lead and now had to avoid a ma­jor col­lapse. Her ap­proach shot on the par-5 18th left her off the green and down a small slope, in the shadow of a hulk­ing tele­vi­sion tower. But her chip shot rolled just past the hole — leaving her smil­ing ca­su­ally at a loudly cheer­ing crowd — and the en­su­ing par putt sealed a U.S. Women’s Open cham­pi­onship for the 23-year-old from South Korea.

The ma­jor, held at Trump Na­tional Golf Club, fin­ished with eight South Korean play­ers in the top 10. The two who rounded out that group were Spain’s Car­lota Ci­ganda and China’s Shan­shan Feng, who en­tered the fi­nal round as the leader and fin­ished tied for fifth place. The top American fin­isher was New Jersey na­tive Ma­rina Alex at 4 un­der. Park, who fin­ished tied for third at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open, took home $900,000 of a $5 mil­lion purse.

She shot a 1-over-par 73 on Thurs­day, 2-un­der 70 on Fri­day, 5-un­der 67 on Satur­day and 5-un­der 67 again on Sunday, good for 11 un­der across four rounds, to cap­ture her first LPGA Tour win.

“To be hon­est with you, I still can­not be­lieve that it is ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing,” Park said through a trans­la­tor af­ter ac­cept­ing the tro-

phy. “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, and for that I am grate­ful and ex­tremely happy.”

The week was full of dis­trac­tions on and off the golf course.

A po­ten­tial visit from Trump, who fre­quents his Bed­min­ster club as a sum­mer get­away spot, was first in­di­cated Mon­day and dis­cussed un­til he ar­rived from Paris on Fri­day. Trump spent most of Fri­day, Satur­day and Sunday watch­ing the tour­na­ment from an el­e­vated, en­closed view­ing area be­tween the 15th-hole green and 16th-hole tee.

That cre­ated a steady hum of noise from peo­ple who hung around that area or stopped while pass­ing through it. Fans and sup­port­ers, on the ground and on the bal­cony of the neigh- bor­ing club­house, snapped iPhone pho­tos and begged Trump to re­turn their waves. On Sunday, small groups of si­lent protesters, ral­ly­ing in op­po­si­tion to the U.S. Golf As­so­ci­a­tion hold­ing the event at a Trump-owned course, joined the crowd.

In­side the ropes, play­ers bat­tled puz­zling greens and moody weather. Thurs­day was damp­ened by spo­radic show­ers. Fri­day was soaked by driv­ing rain. Satur­day brought the sun, and Sunday even­tu­ally brought a win­ner.

“As com­pared to last year, I could say that I played prob­a­bly a lit­tle bit more re­laxed,” said Park, who shot 4 over across the fi­nal two days of last year’s U.S. Women’s Open to slip into third place. “. . . But 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.”

The fi­nal round started with Feng and 17-year-old South Korean am­a­teur Hye-Jin Choi jostling for the lead. Choi, who even­tu­ally fin­ished in sec­ond, recorded the low­est am­a­teur score (9 un­der at 279) in U.S. Women’s Open his­tory. She trailed Feng by one at 8 un­der at the start of Sunday, and then Choi slowly pulled ahead and car­ried a twostroke lead onto the back nine.

That is when Park made her move, birdieing the 12th and 15th holes to join Choi atop the leader board. They were tied at 10 un­der when Choi leaned over the tee at the 16th hole, but her drive found the wa­ter, and the am­a­teur’s chances quickly dis­si­pated.

Shortly af­ter the crowd at No. 16 sighed at Choi’s ball sink­ing into the wa­ter, a big­ger crowd let out a roar at the 17th-hole green. Park had just sunk a six­foot birdie putt, her sixth of the round, to push her score to 11 un­der and her lead to two strokes.

“But I knew that, you know, on the last hole, I mean, when [Park] made the putt and peo­ple went like crazy,” said Feng, who led af­ter the first, sec­ond and third rounds be­fore stum­bling Sunday. “Oh, [Park] must be win­ning.”

Feng triple-bo­geyed 18 to fade down the leader board. Choi birdied the fi­nal hole, but when all the pars and bo­geys and whis­pers and shouts of “Don­ald Trump!” were added up, Park’s four-round score was lower than every­body else’s.

Af­ter she snaked through a sea of fans above the 18th green, she walked by Trump’s view­ing area and looked up to see the president ap­proach­ing the front win­dow. Trump, wear­ing a red “Make Amer­ica Great Again” hat, ex­cit­edly clapped and raised two thumbs in her di­rec­tion. Park smiled and waved, then went to sign her score­card and, with 72 holes be­hind her, fi­nal­ize the win.

MATT SUL­LI­VAN/GETTY IM­AGES

Sung Hyun Park of South Korea carded rounds of 67 on Satur­day and Sunday to win the U.S. Women’s Open by two shots over Hye Jin Choi.

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