Park wins Kraft Nabisco by four strokes
Robbing the Kraft Nabisco Championship of another exciting finish, Inbee Park doubled her lead to six strokes over playing partner Lizette Salas on the par-4 opening hole and ran away with her second major title.
Park made a 20-foot birdie putt, showing off a putting touch unmatched in women's golf, and Salas had a messy double bogey for a three-stroke swing.
"That made my day much easier, that's for sure," Park said.
The 2008 U.S. Women's Open winner at Interlachen, Park closed with a 3-under 69 to finish at 15 under, four strokes ahead of fellow South Korean player So Yeon Ryu.
"It had been a while since I won a major. It feels very special," said the 24-year-old Park, the third straight South Korean major winner and the eighth in a row from Asia.
Park celebrated the victory with the traditional leap into Poppie's Pond.
"It was great," Park said. "That's the pond I've always wanted to jump in and I finally jumped in. It was a little bit chilly, though."
She also jumped from fourth to second in the world with her fifth LPGA Tour title and ninth worldwide win.
"I only have one more spot to go," Park said.
She filled a water bottle in the pond.
"That was for my dad," Park said. "When I see him next week in Hawaii, I'm going to pour it over him. Yeah, that's what he wanted."
She stopped him from making the trip from South Korea to California.
"He packed his bags and booked a ticket and everything and he was on his way," Park said. "I called him and, like, said, 'Just don't come.' He was very mad because he really wanted to come. But really it was tough stopping him, but he actually listened to me. ... I stopped him because if he came, I would want to win so bad, but that might be on my mind playing today."
Park was four victories in her last 16 events. She won the LPGA Thailand in February in her season debut when Ariya Jutanugarn closed with a triple bogey to blow a two-stroke lead.
"I've played five tournaments on the LPGA Tour and I've won two of them, which is a very good start," Park said. "It's pressure off me for the rest of the season."
Last year, Park won twice, had six runner-up finishes and topped the money list. She won the Evian Masters in July in France, tied for third in her next start, added three straight second-place finishes and capped the run with a victory in October in the LPGA Malaysia.
"I've seen Inbee do this before," top-ranked Stacy Lewis said. "I played with her at Evian last year when she had, I think, 22 or 23 putts in the final round. When she rolls it, you can't beat her. She's the best putter on tour. The course here is a little softer than normal, so I think that's to her advantage."
The 22-year-old Ryu, playing five groups ahead of Park, shot a bogey-free 65 — the best round of the week. Ryu is close friends with Park and they played a practice round together before the tournament.
"She looks like she played another golf course," said Ryu, the 2011 U.S. Women's Open champion. "This golf course is really hard, and especially before we started the tournament, she really worried about the game because her ball flight is a little low, but this golf course has pretty firm greens, so she said, 'Oh, I don't think I can stop it on the greens because my ball flight is too low.' ... I think she was lying to me."
Salas, the 23-year-old former University of Southern California player who grew up west of Los Angeles in Azusa, had a 79 to tie for 25th at 2 under.
"Obviously, I'm not very pleased," Salas said. "Very disappointed in myself."
After Park's low drive bounded down the middle of the fairway, Salas — dressed in Trojans cardinal and gold — hit into the deep left rough, 30 yards behind Park. Salas topped her second shot, advancing the ball only 15 yards, and left her third about 15 yards short of the green.
"The second shot, it just came a little too quick," Salas said. "Throughout the day, I was just really anxious and hit a lot of pulls today. I was just not myself today."
Salas chipped to 15 feet, watched Park hole her birdie putt, then two-putted for 6.
Park increased her lead to seven on the par-5 second, holing a 7-footer. She couldn't get birdie tries to fall on the next three holes, then dropped a stroke on the par-4 sixth after driving into the left-side water, ending her bogey-free run at 27 holes.
Park made a 22-footer for birdie on the par-3 eighth and got to 15 under with a 5-foot putt on the par-5 ninth. She made another bogey on the par-10th, leaving her four strokes ahead of Ryu.
Park made a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-4 12th and a 10-footer on the par-4 13th to push her lead back to six at 16 under. She nearly made it three straight birdies, but her 12-footer lipped out on the par-3 14th. She missed a short putt to bogey the par-3 17th, and closed with a par.
Lewis, the 2011 winner, tied for 32nd at 1 under after a 72.
After winning consecutive events in Singapore and Phoenix to take the top spot in the world from Yani Tseng, Lewis tied for ninth two weeks in Carlsbad and was never in contention at Mission Hills.
"It's been crazy," Lewis. "I expected to get the attention at the tournaments and at the course, but I've been surprised at things off the course."
DIVOTS: Park earned $300,000. She's the third South Korean winner at Mission Hills, following Grace Park (2004) and Sun Young Yoo (2012). ... Suzann Pettersen (69) and Caroline Hedwall (68) tied for third at 9 under. ... Tseng closed with a 74 to tie for 48th at 2 over. Winless in more than a year, she dropped to No. 3 in the world. ... Lydia Ko, the 15-year-old New Zealand amateur who won the Canadian Women's Open last August to become the youngest LPGA Tour champion, had a 69 to tie for 25th at 2 under — the best score among the amateurs. "I'm very happy and excited to get low am," Ko said. "I finished well and that is the biggest thing for me."
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