South Korea’s Choi Na-yeon stroked a final round 69 to successfully defend her LPGA Hana Bank Championship title yesterday by two shots from Vicky Hurst of the US.
Choi, the world No. 6, finished on 206, 10-under for the tournament, after starting the day a shot behind third-round leader Kim Song-hee.
Birdies on 10, 11 and 13 took Choi into the lead as Kim struggled with a string of bogeys and she had to settle for third place, a shot behind Hurst, who posted a steady 70.
The victory on home soil in Incheon saw Choi become the first player to win the same event in consecutive years since Lorena Ochoa at the Navistar LPGA Classic in 2008 and last year.
“There were a lot of expectations from the fans that I have to defend my title,” said Choi, who is on a hot run of form, with two wins, three seconds and two thirds in her last 10 starts. “In order to live up to those expectations, I had to let everything out on the course and concentrate on every shot. That paid off.”
Choi and Kim are close friends, but all that was put aside on the course, with US$270,000 at stake for the winner.
“Even though I am best friends with Song-hee, I can’t think about friendship on the course,” Choi said. “It’s all about competition on the course. I made my effort to focus on the game. If I thought about the friendship with Song-hee, I could not have concentrated on my game the way I did.”
Hurst was happy with second place.
“I played very steady and that was my goal. My mum told me to just be patient and stay calm, keep going, making pars and birdies and I did that, so I’m pretty proud of myself,” Hurst said.
“It was a great week. I learned a lot, to stay patient. I don’t have to go crazy, make a ton of birdies. I only had three bogeys all week, one bogey a day,” she said.
A group of three players finished tied for fourth, including Paula Creamer, Shin Ji-yai, and Suzann Pettersen, while new world No.1 Cristie Kerr shot her third straight 71 to end seven behind Choi.
Taiwan’s Amy Hung carded a final-round 73 to finish tied for 25th on one-under, while compatriot Teresa Lu shot a 76 to complete a miserable weekend as she finished toward the bottom of the leaderboard on nine-over.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER