South Korean tour star Ko Jin-young captured her first LPGA title at home on Sunday, overcoming a gaffe on the green to edge out two fellow South Koreans in a nail-biting finish.
Ko carded a four-under 68 in the final round to take the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship on the Ocean Course at Sky 72 Golf & Resort near Incheon International Airport.
At a tournament-record score of 19-under 269, Ko defeated LPGA rookie sensation Park Sung-hyun by two. Chun In-gee, the 2016 LPGA Rookie of the Year, was another stroke back in third place.
Ko Jin-young (Yonhap)
Ko, world No. 33, is the 2016 Korea LPGA (KLPGA) Player of the Year who has nine career wins on the domestic circuit. The win also gave Ko full-time playing privileges on the LPGA Tour next year.
This was the 14th win by a South Korean player in 28 LPGA tournaments this year. The country's record for most wins in one LPGA season is 15, set in 2015.
Ko was the overnight leader at 15-under, two ahead of Park and Chun, ranked second and seventh in the world. The three formed a dream final group for golf-crazed fans here, as Ko, one of the KLPGA's best, went up against two of the LPGA's brightest young stars.
Ko stumbled out of the gate in the final round, though, as she bogeyed both the second and third holes. Park, who birdied the second hole, claimed the lead at 14-under with a par at the third.
Park then birdied fourth and fifth holes to reach 16-under, with Ko also getting a birdie at the fifth to stay within two of Park.
And Ko soon found her groove. She recorded three straight birdies to close out the front nine at 17-under, and made the turn one shot ahead of Park, who had four straight pars to close out her front nine.
But Ko had a potentially fatal hiccup at the 11th, where her birdie putt from less than two feet lipped out. Park birdied the same hole to pull into a tie at 17-under.
But Ko moved back into the sole possession of the lead at 18-under with a birdie at the 12th, as Park only managed a par at the same hole.
Ko's lead widened to two shots at the 14th, where Park committed her first bogey of the round.
Park, one of LPGA's longest hitters, drove the green at the par-four, 275-yard 15th, but missed her eagle attempt from about 13 feet.
Park settled for a birdie, and Ko also birdied the hole to move to 19-under, maintaining her two-shot lead with three holes to play.
Park took herself out of contention down the stretch. She found deep rough left of the fairway at the 16th and three-putted for a bogey to fall three back of Ko, who saved par after a mediocre second shot that missed the green to the right.
A third South Korean in the group, Chun recovered from an opening bogey with birdies at the second and sixth holes to get to 14-under. Another birdie at the ninth put Chun in the thick of the race at 15-under, but her charge fell short on the back nine.
Park would have risen to No. 1 in the world rankings with a win and dethrone fellow South Korean Ryu So-yeon, who tied for eighth.
Park remains at the top of the money list and the Rookie of the Year points race.
The tournament drew nearly 32,000 fans on Sunday, its record crowd for a final round in 10 editions at the Ocean Course. The four-day total of 61,996 fans was also a record at this venue. (Yonhap)