Park made 5 birdies in her last 10 holes in the morning 3rd round to chase down Morgan Pressel, who had birdied her last 3 holes in a row on the front to get to -9 for the week, but stumbled home with a birdieless 39 to fall back to -7. In the final round, it looked for most of the afternoon like a Park-Pressel duel, as Park birdied the 5th to get to -9, but then bogeyed 2 of her next 3 holes to fall back into a tie with Pressel, who had bogeyed the par-3 7th to fall to -6 but birdied the par-5 8th. From there, though, both leaders struggled. Pressel was 1st to do so, with bogeys on 10 and 12 that dropped her to -5, while Park extended her lead to 3 shots with a birdie on the par-5 11th. Playing bogey-free golf 2 groups ahead of the leaders, Matthew seemed to be playing for 3rd, even as she birdied 2, 9, 12, and 17 to get to -5. But then it was Park's turn to struggle, as she bogeyed 14 and 16 to fall to -6 and failed to birdie 17. She still maintained a 2-shot lead on Pressel, who had also bogeyed the short par-4 16th, but her lead on Matthew was 1 as she went to the 18th tee. That proved to be too small, as she bogeyed the final hole to allow Matthew into a playoff. Both players parred 18 and 10, but when Matthew bogeyed 18 and Park made an 18-footer for birdie, the victory belonged to the #1 player in the world of women's golf. Park becomes the 7th player in LPGA history to start off the year with 2 consecutive major titles and extends the streak of Asian winners in LPGA majors to 9.
Other players had great chances to be the ones to extend that latter streak, but even an eagle on the par-4 13th in the final round couldn't get Amy Yang into the winner's circle for the 1st time on the LPGA, while Ji-Yai Shin, who was hanging with Park and Pressel for a good part of the 3rd round, made an uncharacteristically high number of bogeys (8 in her final 19 holes), with her last 3 on the back offsetting her 4 birdies between 11 and 16, particularly the last one on the par-5 17th that dropped her to -3. In addition, Chella Choi was -4 with 6 holes to play but made bogeys on 13 and 16 to fall out of contention, while Na Yeon Choi and Sun Young Yoo were -4 with 9 holes left to play but the former bogeyed 10, 14 and 18 while the latter doubled 10 and bogeyed 14 to end their hopes for their 2nd LPGA majors. Meanwhile, Matthew wasn't the only player to have a great chance to break the Asian streak in LPGA majors: Suzann Pettersen made a slight adjustment to her putter's address position between the 3rd and 4th rounds and fired the low round of the week in the afternoon, a bogey-free 65 that features 7 birdies (despite her going 0 for 3 on the par 5s), beating Ai Miyazato's 3rd-round 66 by a single shot but falling outside the playoff by exactly that margin.
Although conditions were clearly tough in Niigata for the final round of the Yonex Ladies, Omote orchestrated her 2nd-straight bogey-free round in a row (she made only 1 bogey in 54 holes!) to hold off money-list leader Rikako Morita, who closed with a Pettersen-esque 65, by 2 shots and Ritsuko Ryu (69) by 3. It was her 3rd win on the JLPGA in a career that stretches back to 1998 but had been a far cry in the last 7 seasons from her peak in 2003 to 2005, when she won twice, finished 2nd 10 times, and ended up in or near the top 10 on the money list. Her win moves her up to #10 on this year's money list, on which more tomorrow.
In fact, I'll have much more tomorrow and in the coming days, including a few Constructivist family anecdotes and observations on golfers I followed today (either alone or with onechan): Chie Arimura, Michelle Wie, and Shanshan Feng; Paula Creamer, Lydia Ko, and Jennifer Rosales; and Mika Miyazato, Caroline Hedwall, and Belen Mozo. So even though the LPGA is taking a little break, keep on coming back here for more!