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Sung Hyun Park Wins Women’s PGA Championship

Make it two majors in two years for rising Korean star Sung Hyun Park

KILDEER, Ill. — Sunday’s story lines were swirling like the winds in suburban Chicago for the final round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

But when the day finally ended after a two-hole playoff and a brief storm delay, Sung Hyun Park was the winner. The victory brought the normally steely South Korean to tears on the shoulder of her caddie, David Jones.

It was Park’s second major championship in two years, and it came after she held off compatriot So Yeon Ryu and Japan’s Nasa Hataoka in a playoff following her bogey-free round of 3-under 69. For the week, Park carded rounds of 66-72-71-69 for a finish at 10-under 278.

“Actually, this is my first time feeling this kind of emotion,” Park said when asked about her tears after the round. “I couldn’t help that.”

It was understandable.

After winning last year’s U.S. Women’s Open as a rookie, Park won the CP Women’s Open in Canada and wrapped up 2017 as the LPGA’s top rookie and co-player of the year. But 2018 hasn’t looked like 2017.

Although she won the LPGA event in Texas in May and tied for ninth in March at the ANA Inspiration, she has missed five cuts, including in the U.S. Women’s Open. That’s when the doubters got in her ear.

“The tears came today because she understood how hard it was to win this week,” Jones said. “We’ve missed four of the last six cuts, so she’s felt the pressure. She also had to battle herself to win this one.”

Park started Sunday’s final round trailing Ryu, who built a 3-shot lead surging past Canadian Brooke Henderson and Park on Saturday. Brimming with confidence, Park appeared one round closer to adding another major championship to her collection as she gained momentum Sunday afternoon.

But it was Hataoka who blistered Kemper Lakes Golf Club on Sunday with a round of 8-under 64 to storm from behind and move within one shot of Ryu, who had six holes to play when Hataoka signed her scorecard.

Hataoka recorded two eagles in her round and put a number on the leaderboard that likely got the attention of Park and Ryu.

Hataoka chipped in from a back bunker on No. 7 and added a second eagle on No. 11. The 19-year-old also rolled in birdie putts on holes 12, 15 and 16, saved par from a greenside bunker on No. 17 and again saved par from the back fringe on the last hole.

With a sparkling 64 in her pocket and a chance to win, Hataoka turned and bowed to the Kemper Lakes course out of respect and then headed to the clubhouse to wait an hour for Park and Ryu to complete their rounds.

Meanwhile, out on the course, Park flirted with disaster on the challenging par-4 16th hole. Trying to carry the water hazard on her approach shot into the green, her ball hit the lake bank and bounced back into some tall grass by the water’s edge. Neither she nor Jones could see the ball, but it was a tense walk toward the errant shot.

“I thought the tournament was gone,” Jones said. “I thought the ball was in the water, but when I reached it and saw that it was still above ground, I nearly broke my neck turning around to tell her it was playable.”

Park’s ball landed on a big tuft of grass. It wasn’t clear where the water ended, but Park and Jones discussed how to extract the ball from the pond’s edge, and Park opted to use her 58-degree wedge and play it like a bunker shot.

The ball landed two feet from the hole, and Park converted the putt to save par on what could have just as easily ended her hope to win.

“Actually, that was my first time doing that kind of shot,” Park said.

It was the par-3 17th hole that caught up with Ryu. With a 2-shot lead, her tee shot sailed left of the green into the water hazard. She finished the hole with a double-bogey 5, dropping her into a three-way tie at 10 under with Park and Hataoka.

That misstep was Ryu’s second double-bogey of the day. She took a double-bogey 6 on the second hole but rallied back with birdies on holes 6 and 7. The double on No. 17 forced Ryu to refocus — and quickly, as she was running out of holes.

“I had to let it go,” she said. “I don’t think the [yardage] number was bad, but I just drew it a little too much.”

Park and Ryu matched pars on the 18th to move into a playoff with Hataoka, who watched the telecast from the clubhouse before heading out to prepare.

The three players returned to the 18th hole for the sudden-death playoff. Ryu drained a 16-foot birdie putt to put the pressure on her two fellow competitors.

Putting from the back fringe, Hataoka’s 15-foot birdie effort missed right, and she was eliminated. Last to putt, Park drained an 8-foot downhill putt to stay in the playoff.

“I did feel nerves going [into the playoff], but on the other hand, I haven’t won a major yet, so I felt like I had nothing to lose,” Hataoka said. “When So Yeon made her putt … hats off to her.”

The matched birdies on the first playoff hole sent Park and Ryu to No. 16 to continue their duel. Both players were preparing to putt when thunder rumbled in the distance.

Play was suspended due to lightning. Heavy rain followed, but the storm blew through quickly, and play resumed with the players on the green just 20 minutes later.

Park slammed home a 7-foot birdie putt to win, as Ryu’s birdie effort rolled past the left edge of the cup.

“It was a really long round today, and I still can’t believe that I’m sitting next to this trophy,” said Park, 24, who has four career wins and career earnings of more than $3.1 million in less than two seasons on the LPGA Tour.

Park is still trying to learn to speak English. The success she has experienced in a short amount of time has come faster than her ability to articulate her thoughts. The American media sometimes struggle to connect with the Korean star. On the other hand, the Korean media often expect more than she can deliver.

“She’s still just piecing it all together,” Jones said of Park. “There’s an awful lot expected of her back home in South Korea. After she came out of nowhere last year to win the U.S. Women’s Open, I think the expectation was that she should be winning every week. In golf, for every one you win, there will be many more that you never even sniff.”

But this week, once again, Park sniffed victory.

She had to fight for it. Against herself. Against blazing temperatures and stormy weather. Against a playoff and with a memorable shot beside a pond that was reminiscent of fellow South Korean Se Ri Pak’s storied shot from the water to force a playoff in 1998 to win the U.S. Women’s Open.

It might be only the beginning of Park’s LPGA career, but already, the legend has begun.

SOURCE: ESPN

The steps that led to Brooks Koepka winning the U.S. Open

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — History will look at Brooks Koepka and note that he won the same major championship two years in a row. The only similarity in victories between last year and this year is that the name of the courses had the word “Hills” in it. Because, in truth, the U.S. Open he won at Erin Hills a year ago and the one he locked up Sunday at Shinnecock Hills could have not have been more different.

At lush Erin Hills, he took home the trophy after shooting 16 under par over four days in Wisconsin. This time, on a fast and hard Shinnecock Hills course that drew the ire of players this past week, he posted 1 over for the tournament.

How did we end up here, with Koepka becoming the first player to win consecutive U.S. Opens since Curtis Strange did it in 1988 and 1989? We go through all the key moments of Sunday’s final round.

The hole that won the U.S. Open

Koepka made five birdies, but it might have been the par at 14 that lifted him to his second consecutive U.S. Open. Fitting, really, that it was a par at a U.S. Open in which pars were so tough to get. The player with a bad left wrist, playing in the event that most puts that wrist in danger — at a U.S. Open with high, thick, punishing rough — needed to navigate that rough to get home with a pivotal par at 14.

He pounded his tee shot 340 yards, but it found that unforgiving rough up the right side. He advanced it as far as he could, hacking it out 98 yards. With that, he had to get up and down from 62 yards to keep his one-shot lead. His wedge settled 8 feet from the hole. He walked in the putt and kept a lead he wouldn’t give up.

The 63 that wasn’t good enough

Tommy Fleetwood was surprised when he shot 66 in Friday’s second round. Imagine how he felt after tying the U.S. Open record with a 63 on Sunday. He finished at 3:49 p.m. local time, then waited … and waited … and waited.

“Looking at the pins, you knew they were going to be more accessible,” Fleetwood said immediately after his round. “I knew I was kind of in it teeing off, but you still have to get off to that good start. [When I was] 4 under through seven, and it was game on.”

Still, he would have liked to have back the putt that just slid by on the final hole.

“I wanted 62,” he said.

Final-Round 63s At A Major That Didn’t Win

YEAR PLAYER MAJOR
2018 Tommy Fleetwood U.S. Open
2017 Haotong Li Open Championship
1995 Brad Faxon PGA Championship
1993 Payne Stewart Open Championship
1991 Jodie Mudd Open Championship

 

The Grand Slam conversation that wasn’t

Patrick Reed doesn’t lack confidence. He wanted to make a statement, and he did that early. Reed birdied his first three holes, five of his first eight, and went out in 4-under 31. The murmurs started: Maybe Reed could follow his Masters win with a triumph at the U.S. Open. Only seven times a player has opened a calendar year by the winning the season’s first two majors. The last time it happened was when Jordan Spieth won at Augusta and then picked up the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in 2015.

Reed, though, couldn’t keep up the momentum after bogeys at 9, 11 and 12. A missed short par putt at 18 officially ended his hope of the major double.

The quest for a major comeback

In 1975, Lou Graham won the U.S. Open after trailing by 11 shots at the 36-hole mark. Tony Finau and Daniel Berger faced the same scenario. It appeared early they wouldn’t be joining Graham. Finau strung together three consecutive bogeys at Nos. 2, 3 and 4. Berger had back-to-back bogeys at the second and third. They each tried to rally — Finau made four birdies in a seven-hole stretch in the middle of his round, while Berger opened his back nine with a birdie at 10 — but they could not make the long road back from 11 down.

The USGA changed the place

The tone of the day started very early, well before Andrew “Beef” Johnston hit the day’s first shot at 8:21 a.m. local time.

“In preparation for [Sunday’s] forecasted dry and windy conditions and to maintain a challenging yet fair U.S. Open test, we applied appropriate levels of water to all putting greens last night and this morning for turf health and firmness,” the USGA said in a statement. “Similar to the preparation we took for Round 1, green speeds will be, on average, 10-12 inches slower than Rounds 2 and 3. We also adjusted some hole locations in a manner similar to what we did in Round 1, reviewing our initial selections and comparing them against our weather forecast and other agronomic data.”

Our translation: We messed up Saturday. We are going to make up for it. The place is going to play easier. Did it ever. Not only did Fleetwood shoot 63, but the whole field had a better day. The course played nearly a shot easier on average than it did on any other day this past week.

 

SOURCE: ESPN

Patrick Reed Wins Masters For First Major Title

Patrick Reed wins Masters for first major title

 

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The tepid applause that greeted Patrick Reed on the first tee made it clear he wasn’t the people’s choice.

All he cared about was being the Masters champion.

He turned back an early move by Rory McIlroy and a late charge by Rickie Fowler. Most daunting in the middle of the final round Sunday was a familiar name at Augusta National — Jordan Spieth — on the verge of the greatest comeback in Masters history.

Reed had the game and the grit to beat them all. And when he slipped on that green jacket, he had everyone’s respect.

“I knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Reed said. “It’s just a way of God basically saying, `Let’s see if you have it.’ Everyone knows you have it physically with the talent. But do you have it mentally? Can you handle the ups and downs throughout the round?”

He has proven that playing for his country. He did it Sunday for himself.

The final test was a 25-foot putt down the scary slope on the 18th green, and Reed pressed down both hands, begging it to stop as it rolled 3 feet by. From there, the 27-year-old Texan calmly rolled in the par putt for a 1-under 71 and a one-shot victory.

Known as “Captain America” for his play in the Ryder Cup, Reed added a far more important title: Masters champion.

The loudest cheers were for everyone else, and Reed picked up on that right away. The crowd was squarely behind McIlroy and his best chance yet at completing the career Grand Slam. Then it was Spieth, running off four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine to challenge the course record. The loudest cheer was for Fowler when he made an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole to pull within one.

Reed never flinched through it all.

“I just went out there and just tried to play golf the best I could and tried to stay in the moment and not worry about everything else,” Reed said.

Reed, who finished at 15-under 273, won for the sixth time in his PGA Tour career.

Until Sunday, he was best known for the trophies he shared at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. He is ferocious in match play, especially the team variety, and his singles victory over McIlroy at Hazeltine in the 2016 Ryder Cup led to his nickname.

“He’s not scared. I think you guys have seen that previous from the Ryder Cups and the way he plays,” said Fowler, who closed with a 67. “He won’t back down. I don’t necessarily see him as someone that backs up and will let you come back into the tournament. You have to go catch him.”

Fowler did his best with three birdies in a four-hole stretch, and the 8-footer on the final hole. It still wasn’t enough. Fowler was runner-up for the third time in a major. He left the scoring cabin when Reed tapped in for par.

“Glad I at least made the last one, make him earn it,” Fowler said with a grin as he waited to greet the newest major champion.

“You had to do it didn’t you?” Reed told him as they exchanged a hug. “You had to birdie the last.”

Spieth put up the most unlikely fight and was on the verge of the greatest comeback in Masters history. He started nine shots behind going into the final round, and was inches away on two shots from a chance at another green jacket.

His tee shot on the 18th clipped the last branch in his way, dropping his ball some 267 yards from the green. His 8-foot par putt for a record-tying 63 narrowly missed on the right. He had to settle for a 64.

“I think I’ve proven to myself and to others that you never give up,” Spieth said. “I started the round nine shots back and I came out with the idea of just playing the golf course and having a lot of fun doing it and try to shoot a low round and finish the tournament strong and see what happens, if something crazy happens.”

McIlroy, meanwhile, will have to wait another year for a shot at the career Grand Slam.

Trailing by three shots to start the final round, he closed to within one shot after two holes. That was as close as he came. McIlroy’s putter betrayed him — he missed four putts inside 10 feet on the front nine — and he was never a factor on the back nine. He closed with a 74 and tied for fifth.

“Tough day, but I’ll be back,” McIlroy said. “And hopefully, I’ll be better.”

Reed is old-school among his generation, with a brash attitude and a willingness to speak his mind. He has never been terribly popular in this state, mainly because of allegations of bad behavior while playing for Georgia that led to an early departure from the Bulldogs. He transferred to Augusta State and led the outmanned Jaguars to a pair of NCAA titles. His parents live in Augusta, but were not at the tournament. They weren’t at his wedding in 2012, a relationship Reed chooses not to discuss.

“I’m just out here to play golf and try to win golf tournaments,” Reed said.

He won a big one Sunday, and it was hard work, just the way he likes it.

Different about this victory for Reed was the fuchsia shirt he wore as part of a Nike script. Reed always wears black pants and a red shirt because that’s what Tiger Woods does, and Reed has long modeled his mental game after Woods. “Be stubborn,” he once said about learning by watching Woods.

Woods broke par for the first time all week with a 69. He tied for 32nd, 16 shots behind, in his first major since the 2015 PGA Championship.

Reed went to the back nine with a four-shot lead over four players, and they all had their chances. That included Jon Rahm, the 23-year-old from Spain, whose chances ended when he went after the flag on the par-5 15th and came up short in the water. He shot 69 and finished fourth.

Reed made a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 12, and his biggest birdie was a 9-iron to 8 feet on the 14th that broke the tie with Spieth. He made all pars from there. That was all he needed.

He became the fourth straight Masters champion to capture his first major.

Reed once claimed after winning a World Golf Championship at Doral that he was a top 5 player in the world, which subjected him to ridicule because it was only his third career title. His first major moves him to No. 11. It also comes with a green jacket, which is worth far more notoriety, not to mention respect.

SOURCE: ESPN