Thursday, May 24, 2018

Na Yeon Choi wins the U.S. Women's Open

KOHLER, Wis. — Na Yeon Choi was cruising to victory in the U.S. Women's Open when her trademark consistency suddenly deserted her.

After yanking her tee shot into the woods on the 10th hole, Choi made triple bogey — cutting her lead over playing partner Amy Yang from five to two strokes.

"That moment, maybe I thought I might screw up today," Choi said. "But I thought I needed to fix that. I can do it. So I tried to think what I have to do."

Choi birdied the next hole, danced around a few more potential pitfalls on the back nine and went on to win by four strokes Sunday at Blackwolf Run.

It's the first major and sixth career LPGA Tour victory for the 24-year-old South Korean star, who came into the tournament ranked fifth.

Choi shot 1-over 73 on Sunday and finished at 7-under 271. Yang, also from South Korea, had 71 to finish second.

Choi's victory came at the same course where Se Ri Pak won the Open in 1998, a victory that inspired Choi and many other young South Koreans to try to make it on the women's tour.

"And 14 years later I'm here right now, and I made it," Choi said. "My dreams come true. It's an amazing day today, and like I really appreciate what Se Ri did and all the Korean players, they did. It's really no way I can be here without them."

Pak was in a group of friends who met Choi after she finished on No. 18, showering her with hugs — and victory champagne.

And look at what Pak started: Choi is the fourth Korean in five years to win the U.S. Open.

Seminole's Brittany Lincicome, who shot 71 to finish 6 over, said: "Maybe I should spend a week with one of them and kind of figure out what they do. Obviously, they practice unbelievably hard. They're not fishing on their weeks off like I am."

Choi could afford to have one bad hole thanks to her remarkable performance Saturday when she matched the fifth-lowest round in Open history with 65.

Michelle Wie finished 10 over. After shooting 66 Friday to get within a stroke of the lead, she had weekend rounds of 78-80.

Tampa's Cindy LaCrosse was the top area finisher, tying for 14th at 5-over 293 after shooting 72; she matched her best finish at a major (also 2011 LPGA). Tampa's Kristy McPherson (79) tied for 60th at 18 over.