Tue, Apr 09, 2013 - Page 20 News List

LPGA: Inbee Park wins first major of the season


South Korea’s Inbee Park, left, jumps into Poppie’s Pond with her fiance Nam Gi-hyeob, center, after winning the Kraft Nabisco in Rancho Mirage, California, on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

South Korea’s Inbee Park claimed her fifth LPGA Tour title and second major championship with a closing round of three-under 69 to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship by four strokes.

The 24-year-old Park, who also won the 2008 US Women’s Open, blitzed the field on Sunday as she opened with two straight birdies in a round that also included a couple of 30-foot-plus putts.

“I played so solid this week and this is a tournament that I always wanted to win,” Park said.

Park finished with a 15-under 273 total to easily beat runner-up Ryu So-yeon, who closed with a seven-under 65 in the first major championship of the season.

Taiwan’s Yani Tseng carded a disappointing 74 to finish tied for 48th place on two-over 290, while compatriot Candie Kung also shot a 74 and was a further eight shots back tied for 69th place.

Park earned her fourth LPGA Tour title with a win in Thailand earlier this year. On Sunday, she and Ryu led a South Korean assault on the leaderboard at the Mission Hills Country Club as five of the top 12 finishers were from South Korea.

Park capped her win in the traditional fashion by leaping into the pond off the 18th green with her caddie. It is a move that has had health risks in the past, but organizers have made it much safer to take the celebratory plunge.

“I was really worried about the first three holes, and the first three holes went really well today and that made my day much easier,” said Park, whose previous best finish at the event was ninth five years ago. “I holed a lot of long putts today.”

Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall (68) and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen (69) tied for third at nine-under, while South Korea’s Haeji Kang (68) and Australia’s Karrie Webb (72) finished tied for fifth at six-under. South Koreans Shin Ji-yai (71) and Park Hee-young (71) highlighted a group of six tied for seventh at five-under.

Park took a three-shot lead over Lizette Salas of the US into the final round and quickly increased the margin with birdies on the par-four first and the par-five second holes.

Park never let up, collecting four more birdies in her brilliant round.

Ryu said she never expected to catch Park.

“Inbee’s putting is great, so I didn’t expect to win,” Ryu said. “I just wanted a top five and now I’m runner-up.”

Overseas players dominated the leaderboard as there were no Americans in the top 12. Paula Creamer and Jennifer Johnson were the top US players, finishing in a tie for 13th with four others, including two Thai golfers, Pornanong Phatlum and Moriya Jutanugarn.

Salas stumbled to a seven-over 79 to finish in a tie for 25th.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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