PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Inbee Park’s putter trumped Brittany Lincicome’s driver.
The old adage that you drive for show and putt for dough was powerfully on display Sunday during the final staging of the Wegmans LPGA Championship.
With Lincicome overpowering Monroe Golf Club with her driver all week, Park successfully defended her title stealing the final scenes with the smallest club in the bag. Park won the way she always wins. She won making more clutch putts than everyone else.
Two shots down with two holes to play, Park ultimately prevailed in a sudden-death playoff, defeating Lincicome with a par on the first extra hole. It’s the fifth major championship title of her career, her fourth over the last two seasons.
“It definitely feels like a big honor, to actually put my name on the trophy twice, and obviously to defend my title,” Park said.
Park, 26, won her first LPGA Championship in a playoff last year. She beat Catriona Matthew at Locust Hill. She lost in a playoff last week, beaten by Mirim Lee at the Meijer Classic.
“It’s almost like I’m getting used to being in playoffs,” Park said. “I’ve been in a lot of playoffs. I felt more comfortable.”
This farewell event, the last to be staged in the Rochester area after a 38-year run here, was bound to end in tears, but they were harder to wipe away for Lincicome, who seemed to have this championship in hand coming down the stretch. She gave the golf-loving fans here more golf than they expected, and more drama and bonus action than she would have liked.
“I just need to learn how to control the nerves a little bit more,” Lincicome said. “I was really, really nervous coming down the stretch, especially the 18th hole and then the playoff.”
Sitting back in the 18th fairway at the end of regulation, Lincicome watched Park coolly hole a 12-foot putt to save par. Park wouldn’t go away on the back nine. She holed an 18-foot birdie at the 17th to pull within a shot.
In the end, Lincicome, 28, confessed nerves were a large factor in her bid to win her sixth LPGA title, her second major. She’s been winless for the last three years.
Needing a par at the 72nd hole to win, Lincicome slightly tugged a 6-iron just off the left side of the green, on the fringe, leaving herself a birdie putt of 30 feet. She made a poor stroke there, sending a groan through the bleachers when she left the putt 8 feet short, setting up her closing bogey.
“I was shaking like a leaf,” Lincicome said. “It’s hard to do anything when you’re shaking.”
It probably didn’t help that Lincicome had a long wait before she got to make that first putt at the 18th at the end of regulation. She had to wait for Suzann Pettersen to sort out a drop in the rough by the grandstand before she could play.
“It did take forever, but I think it was actually giving me time to kind of calm down,” Lincicome said. “I had my caddie go get me water, and I took a couple of sips, took some extra practice strokes. It was more just the lie. It was up against the collar of some thick rough. Most times, with those putts, you either blow it by, or you leave it way short. Unfortunately, I left it short.”
All week long, Lincicome shrunk the course, launching towering drives at every turn to take control of this event. In the end, her short game betrayed her.
The playoff came down to that.
Both Lincicome and Park missed the 18th green on the first extra hole. Park chipped out of some deep rough to 3 feet. Lincicome ran her chip 6 feet past the hole.
After Lincicome’s putt for par grazed the left edge of the cup, Park was a sure thing from 3 feet.
“Today, overall, I just felt so comfortable,” Park said. “I felt like it was just the third round, almost. I just felt no nerves.”
Park said her nerves kicked in before the playoff began, but she settled herself quickly.
“I flashed back to how I won last year in a playoff,” Park said.
Lincicome was nearly flawless with her driver Sunday, hitting every fairway she looked at with it. Her short game, though, was also an issue early on the back nine.
Three shots up at the 12th tee, one of the par 5s she had dominated all week, Lincicome hit her second shot into the grassy face above a front, greenside bunker. She barely popped her ball up over the face, leaving herself in light rough at green’s edge. She chunked a chip out of it, setting up a bogey. She was 12 under on the par 5s all week, and that was her only bogey at a par 5.
For Park, it was sweet winning another major after losing a two-shot lead on the back nine at the Ricoh Women’s British Open last month. It was sweet following up her terrific run in the majors last year with her first major championship title this year.
“I think this year was always going to be a tough year, after having such a great year last year, and trying to match that this year, and match the expectations I had last year,” Park said. “I feel like, so far this season, I've really handled myself well in this position. It feels like I've played some good golf.”