Park wins Champions tournament with putting masterclass

Park In-Bee shot a superb final round of eight-under 64 at the LPGA Women’s Champions tournament to finish at 19-under 269 and capture her first title since her gold medal at last year's Rio Olympics.

Park In-Bee of South Korea with the trophy at the Sentosa Golf Club.   -  AFP

South Korea's Park In-Bee put on a putting masterclass to win the LPGA's Women's Champions tournament on Sunday after overnight leader Michelle Wie blew her chances when she four-putted for double bogey. Park shot a superb final round of eight-under 64 to finish at 19-under 269 and capture her first title since her gold medal at last year's Rio Olympics.

Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand finished second at 18-under after closing with a 66, while rising South Korean star Park Sung-Hyun was a further two strokes back in third after a fourth successive 68. Wie led by two strokes after birdieing the third and fourth holes but lost her place at the top of the leaderboard when she four-putted from within 12 feet for a double-bogey 7 on the par-5th.

The American closed with a 72 to finish tied for fourth at 14-under alongside Canada's Brooke Henderson (66) and last year's winner Jang Ha-Na (69). "Overall, I can't complain, but right now it stings a little bit," Wie said. "Obviously I wanted to walk away with the trophy, but there's so many leaps and strides forward that I made this week. I'm really proud of myself."

The World No. 1 Lydia Ko also shot 72 in her last round to end up in joint ninth. The New Zealand teenager has not won since July last year, a drought by her normally impeccable standards, and is trying to find her best after switching her coach, caddie and clubs.

Park was playing just her second tournament after taking a six-month break to recover from a thumb injury. But she showed no signs of rustiness as she reeled off nine birdies in 13 holes between the 5th and 17th holes to open up a decisive gap over a star-studded field featuring 19 of the world's top 20 players.

No short cuts for Park’s grandfather

With her grandfather following her progress from the galleries, the seven-time major winner knocked in an astonishing sequence of long putts, including one from almost 30 feet on the 17th that proved decisive, to capture her 27th professional title, her 18th on the LPGA Tour and her second in Singapore. "He's 83 this year and he's very dedicated. Last week, I played 28 holes one day and he followed too," Park said. "He always comes to the green. My husband and my dad, they always take the shortcut but he doesn't take the shortcut. He's just that into my game."

Park made her only bogey of the day on the 18th when she hit her approach into a greenside bunker, but still managed to break the course record for the new Tanjong layout at the Sentosa Golf Club. "My putting was amazing [on Sunday], obviously," Park said. "Yesterday I was really disappointed with my putter. I couldn't make any putts [on Saturday] and obviously I made up for it [on Sunday].

"Pretty much everything I looked at wanted to drop in."

Jutanugarn, the World No. 2 and reigning British Women's Open champion, was level with Park after 10 holes and said she was awed by how well the South Korean played. "She's the best player," said Jutanugarn. "I learnt a lot from her. She's very calm. I feel like she makes every putt. I don't think she missed one [on Sunday]."

Park, playing in the penultimate group with Jutanugarn and Jang, had to endure a longer-than-expected wait before receiving her winner's trophy when play was halted for 50 minutes just moments after she finished her round. Organisers ordered play to be stopped because of lightning in the area, with just the final grouping of Sung, Wie and Ko still on the course but out of contention.

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