Park Wins LPGA Championship

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PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Inbee Park, the No. 1 player in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, showed why she’s the best Sunday.

The 24-year-old South Korean captured her second straight major championship, defeating Catriona Matthew of Scotland with a 20-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole in the Wegmans LPGA Championship at Locust Hill Country Club.

“I think I was actually really lucky to get in the playoff,” Park said. “The amount of fairways I was missing today, it’s almost a miracle that I won.”

Park held a three-shot lead with five holes to play in the final round, but her swing was getting away from her. She ended up bogeying the 14th, 16th and 18th holes to finish at 5-under-par 283.

“I think I was getting a little bit tired,” she said after a day that included two rounds. “I just couldn’t figure out the right swing.”

She got it back just in time, splitting the fairway each time on the three playoff holes. Matthew, meanwhile, missed the fairway badly to the right on the third and final playoff hole.

She found the left rough with her second shot, then could only advance the ball a

few yards on her third. When her fourth shot didn’t go in, Park had two putts to win, but only needed one.

“What caused it, I don’t know,” Matthew said of her wayward drive. “I wish I knew.”

Park became the third player in the last 40 years to win the first two majors of the women’s season, joining Annika Sorenstam in 2005 and Pat Bradley in 1986.

In winning for the sixth time in her last 22 LPGA Tour starts, including the Kraft Nabisco Championship to start the major season, she was the last player standing after a 36-hole marathon was required Sunday because the first round was rained out Thursday.

In the end, Park needed 39 holes on the day before claiming her seventh LPGA victory, including three majors, the first coming in the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open.

“I wasn’t looking forward to going extra holes today,” she said. “Especially when you’re missing that many fairways and have to go from the rough, that’s a really tough day.”

Park trailed Morgan Pressel by five strokes after nine holes of the third round Sunday morning on a course where birdies are hard to come by.

With four birdies on the back nine of the morning round, she turned the deficit into one-shot lead when the final round began.

The 43-year-old Matthew, meanwhile, started the final round at 1 under par. She closed with a bogey-free 68 to get into the playoff when Park made bogey on the 72nd hole.

“When I started the last round, I probably didn’t realize I could win,” said Matthew, who counts the 2009 Ricoh Women’s British Open among her four titles on the LPGA Tour.

After both players made par on the opening two playoff holes, Park made a birdie on the par-4 18th to secure the win after Matthew hit into the rough and was scrambling simply to save par.

Pressel, trying to win for the first time since the 2008 Kapalua LPGA Championship, was tied for the lead in the final round, but she carded three bogeys in the last nine holes and shot 75 to tie for third with Suzann Pettersen of Norway, who closed with a 65.

“I’m definitely disappointed, but it’s the first time in a long time that I’ve contended, so I’m happy with the way that I played this week as a whole,” said Pressel, a 25-year-old Florida native.

Pettersen and Pressel finished one stroke out of the playoff.

NOTES: The best round of the tournament was turned in by Pettersen, who carded a 7-under 65 in the final round. That moved her all the way up from a tie for 31st at the start of the day. … Amateur Lydia Ko, the 16-year-old from New Zealand who last year became the youngest-ever winner on the LPGA Tour, continued her strong play with a tie for 17th. Ko’s 3-under-par 69 in the final round was her best of the tournament. … Defending champion Shanshan Feng, the first player from mainland China to win a major, closed with a 70 to finish in a tie for ninth that included Michelle Wie, who finished with a 71. … South Koreans Amy Yang, Chella Choi, Sun Young Yoo and Jiyai Shin tied for fifth.

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