Inbee Park‘s done it again! The world’s top-ranked golfer stormed to her first title of 2014 with a decisive five-shot victory over Norwegian and defending champ Suzann Pettersen in the World Ladies Championship at Mission Hills Haikou in China today, March 9.
Inbee Park Cruises to Victory
The great rivals started the final round at 18-under-par – four clear of their nearest challenger – but Park led all the way after the opening hole and carded a six-under 67 to finish on 24-under for the tournament.
Pettersen returned a 72 for second place on 19-under with world ranked number five So Yeon Ryu (69) third at 16-under on a damp and drizzly day that made scoring more difficult after three days of sunshine.
Park’s only moment of concern came mid-round when Pettersen birdied No.9 and Park bogeyed the 10th, cutting her three-shot lead to one, but the Korean birdied the next two holes to restore control.
Further birdies on the par-3 15th and par-5 last on Mission Hills’ signature par-73 Blackstone Course brought Park, who’s been winless since the 2013 US Women’s Open last June, her final margin of victory.
Last year I was leading going into the final round and I lost to Suzann. I knew that I left something out there last year so coming back this year I definitely wanted to win and that’s what I just did. . . . . . Everything seems to be working quite well for me, from ball striking to putting. . . so I’m just happy to be here and win my first tournament of 2014.
Pettersen, who struggled to get going in the final round, was philosophically resigned to her runner-up spot. She said: “I played average, nothing better. I didn’t go out and shoot six under like [Inbee] did.”
Korean star Ryu, the 2011 US Women’s Open champion, began the day six shots off the pace. She returned a bogey-free round but was never seriously in the victory hunt as Park pulled away.
Here Come The Youngsters!
The world’s top amateur, Minjee Lee of Australia, fresh from her first victory in a professional tournament two weeks ago, achieved her target of a top five finish, as did another rising teenaged star, Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn. That finish made Lee the convincing winner of the amateur competition, 14 shots ahead of China’s Yan Jing.
The Team Competition: International Crown Preview
Park and Ryu were runaway winners of the concurrent team competition, their aggregate score of 40-under putting them a whopping 28 strokes ahead of the China A duo, Shanshan Feng and Lin Xi Yu.
Ryu said: “It’s always a great honour to represent your country but also gave me some pressure because I didn’t want to play badly in the team event. That gave me a lot of motivation.”
Park added: “Being in a team with So Yeon this year gave me a lot of confidence. Winning the individual and the team event is a huge honor, a double honor, so I’m very happy.”
Coming Up Next
The LET goes now to Agadir, Morocco and the Lalla Meyrem Cup March 13-16 and the LPGA plays next in Phoenix, Arizona, March 20-23 at the LPGA Founder’s Cup.
Englishwoman Charley Hull, the 2013 LET Rookie of the Year, returns to the field at the Lalla Meyrem Cup and will play against a list of top competitors that includes Laura Davies, Lee-Anne Pace, Stacey Keating and Ariya Jutanugarn.
America’s top-ranked golfer, Stacy Lewis, will defend her title at the LPGA Founder’s Cup and although the full field hasn’t been announced, we’ll likely have another opportunity to watch the Inbee Park-Suzann Pettersen rivalry play out, this time with full Golf Channel coverage.