Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia: In-Form Park Proves Too Strong
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (October 14): Following three consecutive runner-up finishes, South Korean Park In-bee was finally able to celebrate on Sunday after she fired a four-under-par 67 to claim victory in the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.
The former US Open champion ended on 15-under 269 at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club and overcame a two-shot deficit to finish two strokes ahead of defending champion and overnight leader Choi Na-yeon (71), who was second on 271. Australian Karrie Webb (68) was a further stroke behind in third on 272.
Park was the hottest player coming into the US$1.9 million tournament with nine consecutive top-10s, including finishing in the top-three in her last five Tour events including a victory at the Evian Masters in July, her first Tour win in four years.
She carried that blistering form into the weekend here, shooting rounds of 65-67 which featured 12 birdies. She was the only golfer in the world-class field to post four rounds in the 60s.
The world number six earned US$285,000 for her second victory of the year and strengthened her lead at the top of the Tour’s money list. She said: “I’m very happy to win. This is the first time I’ve won two tournaments in a year so I’m really proud of myself for that. I think everything about my golf has improved, hitting the ball, chipping, putting. I worked really hard on my swing and I’ve been hitting it very solid all year.”
Meanwhile, American Jessica Korda equalled the tournament record, set on Friday by Suzann Pettersen, with a 64 to finish in eighth position on eight-under 276 while world number one Tseng Ya-ni signed for a 71 and ended her tournament at five-over 289, in joint-49th place.
Thai Ariya Jutanugarn closed with a 69 for a seven-under 277 total and finished as the leading amateur in joint-ninth position. Another amateur, Aretha Pan, was the best performing Malaysian. She closed with a 75 for a 12-over 296 total and was tied-61st in the 68-woman field.
Choi was gracious in defeat, congratulating her compatriot and friend. She said: “In-bee played really well today and I’m very happy to see my friend win. I could see she was really nervous. She’s usually not nervous at all but she was today.”
The nerves were there, admitted a bashful Park. “I wasn’t nervous till about the 15th hole, then it just got to me. It was a little bit embarrassing finish, bogey-bogey.”
But it was the bogey by Choi on the 410-yard par-four ninth, the first time she dropped a shot all week on the front nine of the KLGCC East Course, that was the turning point, noted Choi.
“I wasn’t mad after that bogey (just her fourth this week), but I think if I made par from there, maybe I could have played better than now.”
Instead of making the turn with a three-shot advantage over Park, it was only two. And that lead quickly evaporated after Park drained long birdie putts on 10 and 11 before seizing the outright lead with another birdie on the 13.
Said Park: “I knew that Na-yeon was really strong on this golf course and I knew she really liked this golf course. So I knew I had to go really low today to win. Coming in I knew 15 through 18 are tough holes. I knew I had to make a lot of birdies before that.”
Forced to play catch up for the first time in the tournament having led for the first three days, Choi proceeded to double-bogey the 156-yard, par-three 17th after her tee-shot was embedded into the greenside bunker and resulted in a penalty stroke.
That ended her challenge and it was left to Park to seal a well-deserved victory. “I love coming here, eating good food. I love the people here. The people are so kind here. Maybe not so much the weather because it’s too hot for me,” she said, before adding with a laugh: “But I think I’m going to try to like it because I won here.”