With a final-round 67, South Korean’s Sung Hyun Park finished off a furious 36-hole rally to claim victory in the 72nd US Women’s Open, her first on the LPGA Tour.
Park, 23, opened with a one-over 73 at Trump National Bedminster on Thursday to put herself seven shots off the lead of China’s Shanshan Feng. Park was still seven back after a second-round 70, moving up from T-58 to T-21. But with a third-round 67, she moved into fourth, three behind Feng and now with a chance for a Sunday charge to claim the title.
After turning with a two-under 34 this morning, Australian time, Park came home with birdies on the 12th, 15th and 17th holes to finish with a 11-under 277, outpacing amateur Hye-Jin Choi (71) by two strokes. Feng, trying to become the first wire-to-wire winner since 1977, also held a share of the lead on the final nine but stumbled on the 18th hole with a triple-bogey 8 to close with a 75, falling to T-5.
Park’s victory avenged her disappointing finish a year ago at the US Women’s Open at CordeValle. Playing in her first Open, Park led after 36 holes, was in second after 54, but closed with a 74 to finish tied for third, two strokes out of the playoff between Brittany Lang and Anna Nordqvist.
Park’s 2017 season had been impressive up to this point, despite not including a victory. She hadn’t missed a cut in her 12 strokeplay starts, and in her past five starts, her worst finish was a T-19.
With two holes remaining, Park shared the lead with Choi, a 17-year-old from South Korean who was trying to become the youngest-ever winner of the premier title in women’s golf, and just the second amateur to win the championship, joining 1967 winner Catherine Lacoste.
Early in the final round, Choi held the outright lead by two strokes before Park’s back-nine run. And with an impressive up-and-down for birdie from a difficult lie in the rough on the par-5 15th, Choi remained atop the leaderboard. But her downfall came on the par-3 16th, where her tee shot from 131 metres flared off short and right into the water. A double-bogey 5 dropped her three strokes behind as Park birdied the 17th, the hardest hole on the course.
On the par-5 18th, Park hit her third shot over the green, adrenaline pumping, leaving her a tricky chip shot. But rather than succumb to pressure, Park cosied her fourth shot to two feet and then made the par putt to secure the title.
As Park walked off the 18th green, she walked past a private box adjacent to the clubhouse where US President Donald Trump, the first sitting president ever to attend the Women’s Open, was watching and gave her a thumbs up.
A closing 66 from Perth’s Minjee Lee lifted her into a share of 11th place at four-under, the pick of the Australian contingent but seven shots behind the new champion.