NEW JERSEY – South Korea’s Park Sung-Hyun won her first major golf title Sunday, firing her second consecutive five-under par 67 to capture the US Women’s Open as US President Donald Trump watched.
Park, the event’s seventh South Korean winner in 10 years, finished 72 holes at Trump National on 11-under 277 to defeat 17-year-old South Korean amateur Choi Hye-Jin by two strokes.
“I am excited and happy,” Park said through a translator. “It feels unreal to a certain extent.”
Deadlocked for the lead with Choi, Park sank a six-foot birdie putt at the par-4 17th, the fourth and final birdie of the round on the day’s hardest hole, then moments later chipped inches from the cup and tapped in at the par-5 18th to end it.
“When I was about to hit the fourth shot, my mind just went blank, but my caddie kept assuring me so I calmed down and made my shot, and when it went (so close) I was pleased,” Park said.
“I did not have the best first and second rounds. I wanted to believe in myself for the remaining rounds so that helped, trusting myself.”
In her US Women’s Open debut last year, Park led by two shots after 36 holes but closed with back-to-back 74s and settled for a share of third.
Park, 23, took her first LPGA triumph as a tour rookie. She won seven times on the Korean LPGA Tour last year, topping its money list.
Trump, who gave Park a “thumbs up” sign after the victory, watched from an enclosed viewing area near the 15th green.
He was welcomed by most spectators despite outrage sparked by his controversial remarks about women during his presidential campaign.
Two small groups of demonstrators in anti-Trump T-shirts appeared at the enclosure Sunday, according to USA Today and New Jersey Advance Media.
One had seven people in shirts spelling out “RESIST!” with “This is not normal” on the backs of the shirts. They appeared for five minutes and departed before Trump arrived.
Four people from the women’s rights group UltraViolet sported shirts saying “USGA – Drop Sexist Trump” and they stared silently at Trump as he waved to well-wishers.
With Trump watching, Park birdied the par-5 15th to seize the lead at 10-under and Choi followed with a six-foot birdie putt to match her.
But Choi found the water with her tee shot at the 139-yard, par-3 16th for a double bogey that dropped her two back and Park birdied 17, her 12th birdie in 26 holes, to ensure Choi’s birdie at 18 was too little and too late.
“There were some disappointing parts but I’m happy I was able to play very well in this tournament,” Choi said through a translator.
“I was hitting the ball perfect. On 16 I was trying to hit it even more perfectly and that’s what made it a missed shot.”
World number one Ryu So-Yeon and Hur Mi-Jung, also from South Korea, shared third on 281 with Spain’s Carlotta Ciganda, South Korean Lee Jeong-Eun6 and China’s Feng Shanshan — who led after each of the first three rounds — sharing fifth on 282.
Feng, who had only two bogeys in the first 71 holes, closed with a triple bogey to shoot 75. She was hoping to become the first US Women’s Open wire-to-wire winner since American Hollis Stacy in 1977.
“Before the last hole I did pretty well. I did a good job hanging in right there because my putting was not really that great,” said Feng, who needed to hole her third shot at 18 to force a playoff and instead overshot the green.
“I don’t know how I hit it that far on the third shot and then I just lost myself after that. Overall, I think I had a great week this week. My second-best finish at the US Open. Still a very good experience.”
World amateur number two Choi, who won a qualifier in South Korea last month to earn her spot in the field, would have become the youngest major champion in women’s golf history. New Zealand’s Lydia Ko still owns the mark from her 2015 Evian Championship win at 18 years, four months and 20 days. -AFP