Sung Hyun Park rallies from three shots back, wins U.S. Women's Open

US Womens Open Golf
South Korea’s Sung Hyun Park tees off on the fourth hole during the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open on Sunday.

BEDMINSTER, N.J. – Sung Hyun Park gained a reputation in her native South Korea as being an aggressive player, so aggressive that fans there gave her a nickname that loosely translates in English to “Shut your mouth and attack.”

However, with the championship of the U.S. Women’s Open in her grasp Sunday, the 23-year-old Park needed a big result on the par-5 18th from her short game, an area that has given her problems. The result couldn’t have been better, a chip shot from behind the green over a ridge that stopped 2 feet from the hole.

The par putt sealed her victory at Trump National Golf Club in the 72nd women’s national championship, capping a scorching weekend that saw her rally from deficits of seven shots after 36 holes and three strokes entering Sunday’s final 18 with the help of back-to-back rounds of 5-under-par 67.

In achieving that, and playing the back nine in 9-under par the last two days, Park, 23, gained a 2-stroke victory with a final score of 11-under 277, good for a $900,000 check, the richest prize in women’s golf.

“To be honest with you, I still cannot believe that this is actually happening,” Park, an LPGA Tour rookie who has won 10 times on the KLPGA Tour. “I almost feel like I’m floating on a cloud in the sky. Of course, I did have winnings in other tournaments, but winning here at the U.S. Open means so much more, and for that I am grateful and extremely happy.”

In passing the presidential box on her way to the scoring area, Park received a gesture of two thumbs-up from President Trump, who watched from his private box for the third straight day.

Park helped her cause by finishing second among all players with an average of 256.2 yards off the tee, a necessity on a course that played Sunday at a robust 6,762 yards. She led all players with 18 birdies, 12 of which came on her last 27 holes.

Playing in the group just ahead of Shanshan Feng, the leader after each of the first three rounds, and 17-year-old amateur Hye-Jin Choi, Park birdied three of her first eight holes and, after a bogey at No. 9, bounced back with a birdie at the par-4 12th that moved her into a three-way tie for first with Feng and Choi.

She never relinquished the lead from that point. She gained the solo advantage after Choi pushed her tee shot into the water on the par-3 16th hole and made double bogey. Park then extended her lead to two with a 6-foot birdie putt at No. 17, one of just four birdies on the day on that hole.

Then came the 18th, where she blasted her third shot over the green into a waste area and needed to finesse a chip shot somewhere close.

“Earlier on the 18th hole, my mind basically went blank,” Park said. “But at that moment, I was telling myself I should just stick to how I usually practice. So I think the repetition and practice that I carried out probably paid off. To be honest with you, I was actually surprised myself.”

The par meant that Feng needed an eagle on 18 to tie. She also hit her third shot into the waste area before missing a chip and 3-putting for a triple bogey and a 75 that dropped her to a tie for fifth.

“All I tried to do all four days was actually trying to enjoy the process and then focus on every shot, and give 100 percent on every shot,” said Feng, who managed just one birdie each of the final two days.

Choi rebounded from her shot into the water and birdied the 18th for a 71 and second place at 279. So Yeon Ryu, the world’s No. 1 player, had a 70 and tied Mi Jung Hur (68) for third at 281.

It was a better memory for Park at the Women’s Open than last year, when she led at the halfway point but shot 74-74 on the weekend. This year’s weekend was so much better, and made her so much happier.