World No. 1 Inbee Park won the US Women’s Open on Sunday, grabbing a slice of LPGA history with her third straight major triumph of the year.
Park’s final-round 74 gave her an eight-under total of 280 and a four-shot victory over I.K. Kim, who also carded a two-over 74 for 284.
The South Korean superstar joined US sporting legend Babe Zaharias as the only women to win the first three majors in a season. Zaharias won all three in 1950.
“I’m very honored to put my name [next] to someone like Babe Zaharias,” said Park, who will have a chance to become the first man or woman to win four major golf championships in a season at the Women’s British Open at St Andrews from Aug. 1 to Aug. 4.
“I think it’s too early to think about the next one,” Park said. “I think I really want to enjoy the moment as it is, in the moment.”
“I’m just glad that I can give it a try at St Andrews. That’s going to be a great experience. Whether I do it or not, I’m just a very lucky person,” she said.
Park had put herself in position to win with a 71 on Saturday — the only sub-par round of the third round giving her a four-stroke cushion over Kim.
After back-to-back bogeys at the sixth and seventh, Park rebounded with birdies at the ninth and 10th, stretching her lead to as many as six shots.
Despite another brace of bogeys at 14 and 15, she was never seriously threatened as Kim was unable to find a birdie on the back nine.
South Korea’s Ryu So-yeon, the 2011 champion, posted an even par 72 for sole possession of third place on 287.
The top three were the only players under par for the tournament. Americans Paula Creamer and Angela Stanford and England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff shared fourth on one-over 289. Creamer carded a 72, Stanford shot 74 and Ewart Shadoff posted a 76.
Park, whose first US Women’s Open victory in 2008 made her the championship’s youngest winner at age 19, admitted she thought about the enormity of a possible win on Saturday night, but felt calm as she made her way around wind-blown Sebonack Golf Club course on Sunday.
“It was a tough day out there. The golf course was playing tough. I tried to stay calm, and I think I did. I just didn’t know what I was doing. I mean, if I knew what I was doing, I think I wouldn’t be able to stand,” Park said.
“Yes, it was a very good day and I’m just very glad that I can put my name in history,” she said.
After her final putt dropped, Park raised both her arms as fellow players raced onto the green to spray her with champagne. She then shared a hug with her parents.
“It means a lot that I can show this kind of golf to my parents,” said Park, whose folks do not usually travel with her.
Park, who won the Kraft Nabisco in April and the LPGA Championship last month, is the fourth woman to win three majors in a season, along with Zaharias, Mickey Wright (1961) and Pat Bradley (1986).
However, she’s the first to win the first three in a season in which more than three tournaments are designated majors. This year there are five, with the Evian Championship — in which Park is the reigning champion — given major status for the first time.
“It would be great if I could win five, but I still think four means a Grand Slam,” she said — especially if one of the four is the Women’s British Open.
In accepting her trophy, Park said it was “scary” to think what she might accomplish. After all, she has won six tournaments this season, three of them majors, and eight of her past 24 starts.
“I just said that because I don’t know what I can do from now on,” Park said. “I didn’t expect myself being in this kind of position, breaking some kind of record that hasn’t been broken for 50 years.”
“I never dreamed of myself doing that ... but I’ve done it. I don’t know what else I can do,” she said.