KUALA LUMPUR: South Korea’s Park Inbee edged out defending champion and tournament leader Choi Na-Yeon in a thrilling final day yesterday at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia to win with a 15-under 269.
The world number sixth ranked player kept her cool to become the third South Korean to win the tournament in as many years when she closed out with a four-under 67, defeating compatriot and friend Choi by two strokes overall.
World number four Choi, who led from the opening day, could only finish with a level par 71 yesterday, conceding the title of the $1.9m competition at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club to Park.
Park, who had slowly but surely been closing the gap on Choi, finally took the lead on the par-4 13th when she had a tap in for a birdie while Choi could only par.
Less than 15 minutes later that lead became two, when Park’s irons came perfectly into play to set up another tap-in for a birdie.
“I wasn’t nervous till about the 15th. It was an embarrassing bogey-bogey finish,” Park said. “I prefer leading because I knew whatever it was, I had to play well.”
Down by two, Choi knew her chances of defending a title for the first time in her career was over on the par-5 16th hole.
Park made a harsh of her approach shot and needed two attempts to get out of the bunker, but she then brilliantly made par from off the green. Choi, who had a chance for a birdie, fluffed her lines and failed to put pressure on her compatriot, leaving her two behind going into the final two holes.
On the 17th hole, Park increased her lead to three after Choi crumbled and double-bogeyed the 17th, despite Park also bogeying the treacherous par-3.
On the final hole, Park had a horrendous tee shot but salvaged a bogey to claim the top prize.
It was her mastery of the back nine that helped Park seal victory. She collected a total of 15 birdies on the last half of the course over four days to follow Choi and Kang Jimin as previous winners of this tournament.
Choi said she was disappointed but “happy for my friend to win this week”.
“She was playing well, and I think she got nervous on the last two holes. I played well in the front nine, but I had one bogey on the ninth,” Choi said.
“I wasn’t mad after that bogey but I think if I made par, I could have had the chance to put the pressure on Park... I had bad luck on the 17th as well” where she made a double bogey, she added.
Australia’s Karrie Webb finished third on 272, while a charging Catriona Matthew of Scotland was fourth a stroke back.
A third South Korean, Ryu So-Yeon, was fifth.
Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn was the best amateur, finishing tied for ninth on seven-under 277.