Golf

LPGA Tour rookie Park powers her way to first Major title

South Korea's latest US Women's Open champion Park wows with her aggressiveness

South Korean women's golf domination presented a new face yesterday morning (Singapore time) in US Women's Open winner Park Sung Hyun, whose long-hitting and ultra-aggressive style set her apart from many compatriots.

The all-business Park plays with a poker-face intensity and crushes the ball with a flowing power swing that takes dead aim at her target.

She goes by the nickname, "Dak Gong", coined by Korean fans that translates into "just shut your mouth and attack", she explained through an interpreter after starting the final round three back and winning her first Major title with a two-shot victory over 17-year-old amateur compatriot Choi Hye Jin.

World No. 1 Ryu So Yeon and Hur Mi Jung, also from South Korea, shared third on 281 with Spain's Carlotta Ciganda, South Korean Lee Jeong Eun and China's Feng Shanshan - who led after each of the first three rounds - sharing fifth on 282.

"(Compared) to a lot of Korean female players, I guess I am more aggressive in my play," said 23-year-old Park.

"So fans gave me that nickname last year. I just focus on attack and aggressiveness. And I'm happy for it."

US LPGA Tour rookie Park finished with a pair of five-under rounds of 67 to claim the US$900,000 (S$1.23m) first prize on an 11-under 277 total and finish what she started at last year's US Women's Open at CordeValle in California.

There, she was the 36-hole leader, but posted 74-74 in the last two rounds and found water on the 72nd hole to finish third, two shots from a play-off.

"I think compared to last year, I could say that I played probably a little bit more relaxed," said Park.

"Based on that good experience that I had last year, I think I was able to garner the championship this year."

Park's triumph at the Trump National Golf Club may have surprised some at the course owned by US President Donald Trump, but would have been no surprise to fans back home.

She won seven times on the Korean LPGA Tour last year and this year is the runaway favourite to win the LPGA Rookie of the Year honours with four top-10 finishes and a world ranking of 11th coming into the third Major of the season.

Park's ability to maintain focus is a weapon that matches her obvious talent swinging the clubs.

"I think one of the most difficult things is to stay focused and keep that concentration level up because I know first-hand that once you lose it, your play is going to just go sideways," she said.

Park's play was a one-way express lane to victory yesterday morning, when she paused only to give a wave and a bow towards Trump on her way from the 18th to the scoring tent.

"I did have many winnings in other tournaments, but winning here at the US Open means so much more and, for that, I am grateful and extremely happy," said Park, breaking into a rare smile. - REUTERS

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