A scintillating Sunday shootout that showcased the seemingly bottomless pool of youthful talent in women’s golf produced a winner who just might be the game’s next big thing. Sung Hyun Park, who last year let the U.S. Women’s Open slip away from her, outdueled Shanshan Feng and 17-year-old amateur Hye-Jin Choi in a goose bump filled final round at Trump National.
Is it too early to start talking about Nancy Lopez? She’s the only woman to be the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year in the same season and that was way back in 1978. But with her victory, Park virtually locked up the rookie award and threw herself into the mix for top player honors, moving into third place. Not bad for someone who made her first LPGA victory the U.S. Women’s Open.
The 23-year-old South Korean displayed an all-around complete game in a closing round 67 that left her at 11-under-par 277, two strokes ahead of Choi. Mi Jung Hur and So Yeon Ryu tied for third at 281 while Feng fell to fifth along with Carlota Ciganda and Jeongeun6 Lee at 282 when she made a triple bogey on the final hole.
A year ago, at CordeValle, Park had the 36-hole lead but closed with a pair of 74s to finish two strokes out of the playoff between Brittany Lang and Anna Nordqvist. This time she had a pair of 67s on the weekend. And now, in her only two appearances in the U.S. Women’s Open, Park has finished third and first. She was seven-strokes back after 36 holes then closed with a rush, making 12 birdies in her last 27 holes.
“I did not have the best first and second rounds,” Park said through a translator. “I wanted to believe in myself again for the final two rounds and I did.” And then she thanked her caddie, David Jones, for helping her stay focused and positive.
If you are looking for a weakness in Park’s game, you’ll have trouble finding one. With a powerfully fluid swing, she is fifth on tour in driving distance, slamming it out there more than 274 yards a pop. She is also No. 16 in hitting greens in regulation and No. 14 in putts per GIR.
(Photo by Getty Images.)
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