Inbee Park wins third consecutive Women's PGA Championship
Inbee Park won her third consecutive Women's PGA Championship on Sunday and accomplished a whole lot more.
Park, who shot a final-round 68 to finish the tournament at 19 under par, also regained the No. 1 ranking in women's golf; surpassed her idol Si-re Pak with a sixth major championship; tied the Tour record for the lowest score in a major in relationship to par; and in her own mind cemented a place in women's golf history.
"Obviously, putting my name alongside like Annika Sorenstam or Patty Berg, legends of golf, just being a part of history of this golf tournament, I feel extremely honored, and I can't believe that I just did it," she said.
The 26-year-old from South Korea made five birdies and shot a bogey-free round at the Westchester Country Club, finishing the season's second major five strokes ahead of 22-year-old compatriot Sei Young Kim on Sunday.
Park, who shot a 273 for the tournament, finished the four rounds with 22 birdies and only three bogeys.
"I played great the last three days," she said. "I couldn't believe myself. I made no bogeys for three days."
Park ties Sorenstam (2003-2005) as the only golfers who have claimed this championship in three consecutive years. It was also her fifth major championship in the 12 played over the past three years on the LPGA Tour.
Park's last birdie came on the final hole. She chipped her second shot to within 5 feet of the pin, then sank the ensuing putt and threw her arms in the air as a fan yelled "three-peat."
It was her 56th consecutive hole without a bogey.
The rookie Kim, who was trying to win her first major, started the day two strokes back She bogeyed the third and the fourth holes, but then reeled off four consecutive birdies, including long birdie putt on the eighth to pull within a shot of the lead.
That was as close as she would get.
A three-stroke swing on the ninth hole put Park in charge. She hit a birdie putt, then watched as Kim three-putted for double bogey.
"Everything fell apart at the ninth hole," Kim said through an interpreter.
American Lexi Thompson ended up in third place. She had eight birdies on her first 13 holes Sunday and shot a 66 to finish at 12 under par.
The now 20-year-old former child prodigy began the day at 5 under par. She got within two strokes of the lead after her birdie on the 13th, her eighth of the day. But she missed a chance on the par-5 15th hole, hitting her tee shot well right and scrambled to make par. She then bogeyed the 16th to end her chances.
"(I) just take a lot of positives from it knowing that I can pull off a round on Sunday here at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship," she said. "It means a lot and I'm going to take a lot of confidence going into my upcoming tournaments."
Brittany Lincicome, who won the first LPGA major of the year at the ANA Inspiration, finished in fourth place at 11 under par. She shot a final-round 68 that included a birdie on the final hole.
Seventeen-year-old Canadian Brooke Henderson finished in a tie for fifth place with Morgan Pressel at 10 under par. The prize money will help in Henderson's quest to earn a Tour card for next year. She needs to either win a tournament or finish with an equivalent of a top-40 on the money list to avoid qualifying school after being denied an age exemption.
The shot of the day came from Hyo Joo Kim, who aced the 149-yard 14th hole. She her shot well short of the pin, but it took one big bounce then rolled the rest of the way into the cup. She finished in a three-way tie for ninth place at 8 under par, a stroke behind Hall of Suzann Pettersen and Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, who shot a final-round 72.
Sandra Gal shot a 7-under 66 after starting the day at even par. She finished with a 285, good enough for 12th.
"The greens were not too crazy firm, so you could hold the pins," she said. "You just need to hit the fairways, which I did today.
With the current No. 1 Lydia Ko missing the cut for the first time in 54 tries, No. 2 Park needed to finish just 29th or better to retake the top spot she last held in February. It will be her third stay at the top of the rankings. She was to the No. 1-ranked female golfer in the world for 59 weeks in 2013.
Park takes home $525,000 with the win.
She joins Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak, Patty Sheehan, Nancy Lopez, Kathy Whitworth and Mickey Wright as the only players to win what was formerly the LPGA Championship at least three times. Wright won it four times.
"I think I always dreamed myself being a part of history, leaving my name, even before I die, there is my name on this trophy" Park said. " There's a name on the U.S. Open trophy. There's my name on great championships."