World #1 Inbee Park made 8 birdies against playing partner and world #2 Suzann Pettersen's 2 in the final round of the World Ladies Championship to lead Team Korea to victory and take the individual title one year after Pettersen had come from behind to deny her. With 19 birdies in her last 36 holes, Park went 62-67 over the weekend to finish at -24, 5 shots ahead of her main rival, 8 shots ahead of teammate and world #5 So Yeon Ryu, 9 shots ahead of Australian amateur Minjee Lee and Thai superstar Ariya Jutanugarn, 10 ahots ahead of Taiwan's Cinderella Yi Chen Liu, and 11 shots ahead of KLPGA young guns Ha Na Jang and In Gee Chun. Even though world #7 Shanshan Feng could manage only a T12 finish, she and LPGA rookie Xi Yu Lin brought home the team silver for the host country, as France fell apart, Team USA stumbled coming home, and Thailand fell off the pace.
Back in January, I predicted that 2014 would be Pettersen's year, but after a drubbing like this, she's going to have to draw on her resilience reserves. The good news is, she's playing great golf at the start of the season and has picked right up where she left off last year. She even cut Park's lead to 1 early on the back 9. The bad news is, Park has clearly put last season's late mini-slump well in her rear-view mirror. And her putter woke up for real this weekend. That doesn't bode well for any of Park's competitors this year!
[Update 1 (1:34 pm): Very curious to see how the race for the 4th spot on Team Korea for the LPGA's International Crown plays out. With her T2 at the JLPGA's season-opener, Ji-Yai Shin should move up the Rolex Rankings, but so should Jang. Most likely In-Kyung Kim will be bumped into the #5 position and Shin will be fairly close to her. By the way, Rikako Morita also finished T2 in Okinawa, so should make up ground on Sakura Yokomine for the #3 spot on Team Japan, while Mamiko Higa will likely pass Shiho Oyama and Miki Saiki to jump into the #5 position. The big question for Team Thailand is how high Onnarin Sattayabanphot will rise in the Rolex Rankings after today's win. And for Team Australia, if Minjee Lee is eligible to play as an amateur, she'll likely move into the #4 spot after today's finish at Mission Hills.]