BEDMINSTER, N.J. — Sung Hyun Park, a 23-year-old South Korean with a fluid swing and stalwart nerves, dropped a 20-foot putt on the 15th green and then a 6-footer on the 17th, capturing the United States Women’s Open with the decisive birdies on Sunday.
Consistency and length carried the day for Park, who carded only one bogey to shoot a five-under-par round of 67 at Trump National Golf Club. Park chased and then surpassed Hye-Jin Choi, a plucky 17-year-old amateur from South Korea, playing one pairing behind her. Choi dumped a critical seven-iron shot off the tee into a pond on the 16th to wreck her own fairy tale.
Feng Shanshan of China, the front-runner for most of the tournament, imploded on the final hole with a triple-bogey 8, dropping her into a tie for fifth at six under.
“I have had a lot of winnings, but winning here at the U.S. Open means so much more,” said Park, who had seven victories on the Korean tour last year.
She has the nickname Dak Gong, an informal phrase that can be translated as “Shut up and attack.”
“Not like other Koreans, I am more aggressive in my game,” Park said through an interpreter. “I focus on my attack and being aggressive. And I like that name.”
The triumph for Park, her first major title and her first victory on the L.P.G.A. Tour, represented a significant breakthrough. With her 11-under 277, she defeated Choi by two strokes to earn the largest prize in the history of women’s golf, $900,000.
But there was considerable irony embedded in the final leaderboard. Playing under the gaze of the club’s owner, President Trump, who preaches “America first,” golfers from the United States failed to finish among the top 10 in this tournament for the first time.
Trump did not attend the victory ceremony, but he applauded the top two finishers as they passed under his box.
“I flew all the way here from Korea, long distance, and then on top of that the United States president clapped for me and cheered for me,” Choi said. “I was touched.”
Marina Alex, from Wayne, N.J., about 40 miles away, was the top American finisher, in a tie for 11th. Paula Creamer’s seventh-place tie in 2012, behind six non-Americans, represented the previous United States low point at the Open.
Off the 18th green, Alex was greeted with a hug from her first-grade teacher before declining to provide a detailed answer to a question about whether the Americans’ performance was cause for concern. “No, sir, I don’t think so,” she said. “Next question.”
Lexi Thompson entered the tournament ranked third in the Rolex rankings, while Cristie Kerr, Stacy Lewis and Danielle Kang, who recently won the Women’s P.G.A. Championship, were all among the top 20. Ten of the top 15 players were from East Asia, including eight from South Korea. Park was 11th.
Politics continued to dog the tournament Sunday, the president’s third straight day at the club, as protests directed at him moved inside the gate. Six New Jersey-based protesters bought tickets and stood near a concession stand with shirts that spelled out “R-e-s-i-s-t” on the front and “This is not … N-o-r-m-a-l,” on the back.
When Trump appeared in his customized tent near the 15th green early in the afternoon, he was greeted with cheers from a gathering of supporters. But another group of four protesters stood facing him, wearing purple jerseys that read, “Dump Sexist Trump.”
“I, like millions of others, am a survivor of sexual harassment and assault,” said Hope Singsen of New York. “I’m here to express my disgust at the U.S.G.A. for using sport to legitimize a sexual predator,” she continued, with a reference to the United States Golf Association.
The president was photographed pointing at the protesters, though he spent most of the time with his back turned to the crowd, watching the tournament on a television in his suite. Late in the day, he was joined by his wife, Melania. Security guards did not remove any protesters from the course.
Park produced her biggest putt on the 15th hole right in front of Trump, pushing her into the lead at the time at 10-under. Choi followed with her own 15-foot birdie putt on that same green minutes later, also moving to 10-under.
Choi finally erred on the next hole, a 139-yard par 3. She tried to land her tee shot on a narrow strip below the pin. She came up short, and the ball plopped into the water. Her double bogey dropped her two strokes behind Park with only two holes to play.
“I tried to squeeze the distance, and the club was not quite right,” said Choi, who recovered nicely with a birdie on No. 18. “I thought all my good work would disappear.”
Choi would have earned $540,000 for her second-place finish, but she is too young to turn professional in South Korea and must give up the substantial prize money. She was trying to become only the second amateur to capture the Open; Catherine Lacoste of France, in 1967, was the first.
Choi’s score of 279 was the lowest in Open history for an amateur.
“It would be nice if I did get the money, but the primary goal was to compete,” Choi said, smiling. “Getting the second place is more of an honor. I’m not focusing on the money right now. Just that I can come and play is an honor.”
Park, who is in her first season on the L.P.G.A. Tour, is an elegant golfer with a graceful, long swing line and a seemingly limitless future.
“She’s a super rookie this year,” Feng said. “She was the money queen in Korea. She’s young and long. She hits the ball very long and very straight. I don’t see any weak part in her game. I’m not surprised she won this week.”
Published at Mon, 17 Jul 2017 01:17:43 +0000