Park wins second major in a row


PITTSFORD, N.Y. – If your house is burning down, you want Inbee Park around.

Firemen don’t charge in and out of trouble saving prized possessions as unflappably as Park does.

She looked fireproof winning the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

Time and time again over Sunday’s marathon finish, Park put herself in trouble only to emerge unscathed. She saved pars, she saved bogeys, and she finally saved the day defeating Catriona Matthew in a playoff.

“It’s almost a miracle I won today,” Park said.

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Park withstood all the infernal heat she kept putting on herself to win her third major championship, her second in a row. She added this title to her Kraft Nabisco triumph in April to become just the third player in nearly 40 years to win the year’s first two major championships.

Park, 24, padded her Rolex world No. 1 ranking claiming her fourth LPGA title this season and the third major championship of her career. She’s two-fifths of the way to the grandest of Grand Slam possibilities with the LPGA having added a fifth major this year.

Park closed out Matthew with a birdie at the third playoff hole, but she won because she saved so many pars.

“I actually thought I was lucky to get in a playoff,” Park said. “I scrambled so well. I was just hitting it everywhere.”

Park hit just six fairways in the final round. She hit just eight greens in regulation. She shot 75 with bogeys over three of the final five holes, including a dispiriting one at the final hole that forced the playoff.

With that magical putter of Park’s, it didn’t ultimately matter. Park knows how to erase mistakes with her putter better than any player in the women’s game. It’s the envy of strokes on tour.

Park rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt to close out Matthew and end a wickedly long day of golf.

“When she starts holing putts, she can hole a lot,” Matthew said.

From sun-up to sundown, they played Sunday at Locust Hill, making up for Thursday’s wash-out. With the three playoff holes, Park and Matthew played 39 holes over 11 hours.

“I felt like I ran a marathon today,” Park said. “I wasn’t looking forward to going extra holes. It was a tough day out there, very tired, especially when you’re missing fairways and have to go from the rough. That’s really tough.”

The victory resonated beyond personal achievement. It resonated with national pride.

Park won South Korea its fourth consecutive major championship. The run goes back to Na Yeon Choi’s victory at the U.S. Women’s Open last summer, Jiyai Shin’s victory at the Ricoh Women’s British Open and Park’s Kraft Nabisco title this spring.

It’s the ninth consecutive major championship title for Asia.

Park started Sunday’s marathon two shots behind Morgan Pressel. With a 4-under-par 68 in the morning, she took a one-shot lead on Pressel into the afternoon’s final round. Park had about 20 minutes for lunch before heading back out for the final round, and she started that strong. She built herself a three-shot lead on Pressel on the back nine and looked like she was going to run away, but her errant driving caught up with her in Locust Hill’s gnarly rough. She bogeyed the 14th, 16th and 18th holes.

Matthew was four shots behind Park stepping to the 15th tee. Matthew birdied the 17th with Park making a mess behind her.

“I looked at the leaderboard at 18 and was quite surprised two putts could get me in a playoff,” Matthew said.

Pressel fought hard, but she ended up one horeshoed putt away from a playoff. Pressel’s 40-foot putt for birdie at the 14th was halfway down the hole and spun out back at her. She tied for third just a shot out of the playoff.

“I didn’t think Inbee would give me as much of a window as she did,” Pressel said. “When she gave me a window, I gave it right back to her.”

In the end, Park prevailed refusing to give in to frustration. After spraying so many drives in the final round, she hit all three fairways in the playoff.

“I really tried to fight and not give up,” Park said.