Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Park wins second LPGA major at Kraft Nabisco

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Inbee Park couldn't have asked for an easier start to her final round in the Kraft Nabisco Championship on Sunday.

The 24-year-old South Korean, who entered with a three-stroke lead, doubled her lead to six on the opening hole.

She made a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4 first, and playing partner Lizette Salas had a double bogey for a three-stroke swing. "That made my day much easier, that's for sure," Park said. "A birdie start is always a good thing. That gave me a lot of confidence."

The 2008 U.S. Women's Open winner closed with 3-under 69 at Mission Hills to finish at 15-under 273 and win her second major LPGA Tour title. She was four strokes ahead of fellow South Korean So Yeon Ryu.

"It had been a while since I won a major," Park said. "It feels very special. This week I played very solid."

Park celebrated the victory with the traditional leap into Poppie's Pond and jumped from fourth to second in the world rankings with her fifth tour title and ninth worldwide win.

South Koreans have won three straight majors, and Asians have won eight in a row.

Park has four victories in her past 16 events. She won the LPGA Thailand in February in her season debut.

"I've played five tournaments on the LPGA Tour (this year), 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."

Ryu, 22, shot bogey-free 65, the best round of the tournament. She is close friends with Park, and they played a practice round together before the tournament.

"(Park) 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 start 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."

Suzann Pettersen (69) and Caroline Hedwall (68) tied for third at 9 under. Salas had 79 to end up at 2 under.

"Obviously, I'm not very pleased," Salas said. "Starting off with a double wasn't in the game plan, but everyone is going to have those days where they're just not going to be able to score."

Tampa's Cindy LaCrosse (78) finished at 9 over.

PGA: Martin Laird tied the course record with 9-under par 63 to hold off Rory McIlory and get his first win in more than two years at the Texas Open in San Antonio. Laird began the final round four shots behind leader Billy Horschel but had a bogey-free round to finish at 14-under 274 for his first win since the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2011. The Scot's win broke a streak of 14 straight American winners to start the season, the longest streak since 13 in 1989. McIlroy began the day four shots off the lead at 6 under and shot 66 to finish two back in second, his best finish of the year. Horschel shot 71 to tie for third with Jim Furyk (69) and Charley Hoffman (69).