After lurking near the top of the leader board for three days, the world’s top-ranked women’s golfer found an opening in the final round and pounced.
Inbee Park sank a 5-foot birdie putt on 18 to boost her already substantial golfing chops by securing a one-stroke victory on Sunday and the $195,000 winner’s check in the inaugural North Texas LPGA Shootout at Las Colinas Country Club.
Park’s 13-under 271 was a shot better than 54-hole leader Carlota Ciganda, whose promising prospects for a first LPGA victory were undone by the most untimely mistakes, a bogey and a double bogey down the stretch.
For Park, who finished off her comeback victory with a 4-under-par 67, the victory represented her third of 2013 and fifth in the last 18 LPGA events, including the season’s first major at the Kraft Nabisco Championship earlier this month.
“I didn’t think I’d have a chance because Carlota was playing really solid,” Park said of Ciganda before her rival’s troubles, which started on No. 14. “I was trying to be really patient out there and finally a couple dropped for me.”
Park, 24, entered the final round two shots back of Ciganda, the Spaniard who was Ladies European Tour’s Rookie of the Year and its top earner in 2012.
A Park birdie on No. 1 and a bogey by Ciganda on No. 2 put the two tied atop the leader board.
But Ciganda answered with birdies on 3, 6, 8 and 10, which put her up two strokes, at 14 under, over Park, who turned in four birdies, including Nos. 1, 8 and 10 in a bogey-free round.
Ciganda hit 15 of 18 greens on the day, but two she missed on errant approach shots on 14 and 15 were Park’s opening.
Ciganda’s second shot on 14 – which Ciganda bogeyed on Saturday, too – fell short of the green when the ball clipped a tree. Her 7-iron on 15 landed hard and skipped into the bordering water in the back right of the green.
“I played great,” said Ciganda, 22. “I had two bad holes … but I tried to fight until the end. It’s always nice to win, but I think when you finish second or even worse, I think you learn more from it.
“I think it’s a great experience and I’m happy with it.”
Ciganda birdied 18, necessitating Park’s must make.
While mistakes caused Ciganda to falter, the South Korean played mistake-free, finishing the final 35 holes of the tournament with nine birdies and no bogeys.
Gaining familiarity with the course was key, she said.
Germany’s Caroline Masson, two strokes back entering the day, shot 4-over 75 to fall out of contention.
Her playing partner, Na Yeon Choi of South Korea, stumbled as well, finishing with a 1 over Sunday for a 7 under total.
Suzann Petterson made a bid to get into contention and a second consecutive victory, surged to 10 under and finished third after a final-round 66. Hee Young Park shot a 7 under 64 to finish in a tie for fourth.
As a rule, they seem to be chasing Park every week. She has four top-10 finishes in seven starts in 2013 and more than $800,000 in season earnings after four under-par rounds in North Texas.
“It’s always good to see my name on top of the leader board almost every week,” Park said. “It’s really good to see my game is improving every week, every year and just trying to take it step by step.”