US’ Lexi Thompson triumphs as Inbee Park claims Player of the Year honors

AFP, GUADALAJARA, Mexico

Tue, Nov 19, 2013 - Page 19

US teenager Lexi Thompson birdied the final hole on Sunday to beat Stacy Lewis by one stroke in the LPGA Lorena Ochoa Invitational.

Lewis had a chance to force a playoff, but missed her birdie attempt.

Thompson, 18, notched her third LPGA Tour title. She had claimed her second in Malaysia last month, ending the two-year dry spell since her first triumph in 2011 when she was 16 years old.

Thompson had four birdies and one bogey in a three-under 69 at Guadalajara Country Club and finished with a 16-under total of 272.

Lewis was alone in second after a 68 for 273, while South Korea’s Ryu So-yeon was third after a 69 for 275.

South Korea’s world No. 1 Inbee Park wrapped up LPGA Player of the Year honors with her fourth-placed finish, firing a 69 for 277.

Surprisingly, Park becomes the first player from South Korea to earn the award, even though the country has produced such LPGA stars as Pak Se-ri and Shin Ji-yai.

She is assured of the award with just the season-ending LPGA Titleholders remaining at the which starts on Thursday.

“I said all year there should have been at least two or three girls [from South Korea] that already won the award, but nobody really did it,” Park said. “It’s just really hard to believe and I’m just very lucky I won.”

The only player who had a slim chance to catch her for the points-based award over the final two events of the season was Norway’s Suzann Pettersen, who finished tied with Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum on 278.

Thompson started the round with a one-stroke lead over South Korea’s I.K. Kim, with Lewis two adrift, but it was a head-to-head battle between Thompson and Lewis for much of the day.

Lewis fell three back with a bogey at the 11th, but recovered with birdies at 12, 13 and 14 to take a slim lead.

“Stacy is an amazing player,” Thompson said. “I knew she could make a run at me any time during that round. When she made the two-shot swing on me, I think on No. 12, it brought it back to all squared. I knew I had to make birdies on top of her because she gets on a roll and she doesn’t stop.”

However, a bogey for Lewis at 17 dropped her into a tie with Thompson going into the final hole, where Thompson’s five-footer dropped and Lewis’ short putt to force a playoff skimmed past the edge.

“First off, I had like a 50 to 60-footer for the first one, which was interesting getting up there within a few feet,” Thompson said. “On the second putt, that’s what it all came down to thinking I can make it and went up to it confidently. Just knock it in.”