Park Sung-hyun captured her second women's major on Sunday when she beat compatriot Ryu So-yeon and Japan's Nasa Hataoka in a three-way playoff at the Women's PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes outside Chicago.
Park, shot a 3-under 69, overnight leader Ryu struggled to a 1-over 73 in strengthening winds and Hataoka, coming off her first tour victory at the NW Arkansas Championship last week, posted a stunning 64 to tie each other for the lead on 10-over 278s after the regulation 72 holes.
Somewhat ironically, however, it was Hataoka who was the first to be eliminated, perhaps because after finishing two hours before the two Koreans, she had had a long wait in the clubhouse to see if her 278 was going to be good enough to win.
It wasn't, of course, and birdies by both Park and Ria via respective putts of 10 and 20 feet at the first extra hole as against her par, saw the fast-rising Japanese teenager knocked out.
Park then went on to wrap up the title with a second-successive birdie.
After a short delay for rain on the par-4 16th, Ryu’s birdie attempt edged past the hole before Park stepped up and made no mistake with another nerveless 10-foot putt.
Park, 24 and now a Florida resident, threw her hands in the air, covered her head, hugged her caddie and began wiping away the tears of emotion that were flowing down her cheeks after her tense and dramatic major triumph.
“Actually, this is the first time I've felt this kind of emotion; of being so emotional,” Park said through an interpreter. “And I was really happy."
Coming down the closing stretch, Ryo had taken a two-stroke lead on the 16th, but then almost immediately lost it by finding water on the par-3 17th and carding a double bogey.
“The wind just took it really hard to the left, and then it was in the water hazard,” she said. “But I did my best. If I look back, there was nothing I could have done better.
"This was my best finish for this tournament, so hopefully I'm going to keep improving. One day I want to lift that trophy.”
Park, in the meantime, had made a superb par save on 16 from the water’s edge and in the end, it enabled her to add a second major to the US Women’s Open she won last year. It also gave her the first prize of $547,500 to take away and will hoist her in the Rolex Women's World Rankings.
The USA's Jessica Korda (68) and Angel Yin (71) tied for fourth at seven under, with England's Charley Hull (67) and Canadian Brooke Henderson (74), who had been in second place through each of the first three rounds, a shot back in 6th place at six under.
The final three days saw temperatures soar into the 90s and with storms forecast for late Sunday afternoon, the organizers did well to get it finished in time by adjusted the start times and by having groups of three instead of two teeing off from both the first and 10th holes.
Hataoka did not think she'd end up back on the course when she finished her round, but the trials and tribulations of the final groups coming down the closing stretch eventually saw he get out on the practice range.
“Yeah, I did feel nerves going in,” Hataoka said through an interpreter of her second visit to the course for the playoff. “But, on the other hand, I haven’t won a major yet, so I felt like I had nothing to lose.”
LEADING FINAL SCORES
278 Nasa Hataoka (JPN) 69 72 73 64, Ryu So yeon (KOR) 69 69 67 73, Park Sung hyun (KOR) 66 72 71 69
281 Jessica Korda (USA) 67 75 71 68, Angel Yin (USA) 73 69 68 71
282 Charley Hull (ENG) 68 75 72 67, Brooke Henderson (CAN) 67 71 70 74
283 Jacqui Concolino (USA) 70 73 73 67, Lizette Salas (USA) 70 74 69 70, Kim In kyung (KOR) 73 70 69 71
284 Moriya Jutanugarn (THA) 68 72 73 71, Ko Jin young (KOR) 73 72 68 71, Sarah Jane Smith (USA) 73 72 68 71, Amy Yang (KOR) 70 74 69 71285 Lexi Thompson (USA) 72 73 72 68, Lindy Duncan (USA) 74 71 68 72, Kim Hyo joo (KOR) 70 72 70 73
286 Jaye Marie Green (USA) 67 74 74 71, Amy Olson (USA) 69 74 71 72, Marina Alex (USA) 72 73 69 72, Annie Park (USA) 71 69 73 73, Ryann O'Toole (USA) 73 71 69 73, Feng Shanshan (CHN) 74 72 67 73, Bronte Law (ENG) 72 70 69 75.
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