After weeks of uncertainty, the U.S. Women’s Open stopped being about President Donald Trump, his course and his views toward women and it turned out to be what the USGA wanted: a good tournament on a good course.
Not surprisingly, the best player this week won, making up for a bad weekend in this event a year ago.
Sung Hyun Park shot her second straight 5-under 67 on Sunday and won a final-round battle with front-running Shanshan Feng and teenage amateur sensation Hye-Jin Choi at Trump National Golf Club for her first LPGA Tour victory.
The 23-year-old Park birdied the 15th to move into a tie for the lead and the 17th to open a two-shot edge after Choi made a double bogey to squander her chance of becoming the second amateur to win the event.
Park finished with an 11-under total of 277, two shots better than Choi, who shot a final-round 71.
It was a far cry from a year ago when Park hit into the water on the 18th hole at CordeValle in California and missed a playoff with eventual winner Britanny Lang and Anna Nordqvist by two shots.
“The experience was definitely worth it, because based on that good experience that I had last year, I think I was able to garner the championship this year,” Park said through an interpreter.
The USGA was criticized for not moving the event from Trump National after comments made by the president about women came to light during the election campaign. There were threats of protests, especially after Trump decided to attend the tournament after his trip to Paris on Thursday and Friday.
Trump arrived Friday and became the first sitting president to attend a Women’s Open, seeing parts of the final three rounds. There was a small protest after he arrived at his box near the 15th green shortly after 3 p.m., but it was peaceful.
It ended up being a quiet week of politics at the course. The golf was excellent.
Park needed a fine chip from over the green on the par-5 18th hole to save par and win the $900,000 top prize from the $5 million event.
Walking to the scoring tent to sign her card, she got a thumps-up from Trump from his box.
“Well, to be honest with you, I still cannot believe that it is actually happening,” said Park, who is the leading rookie on the LPGA Tour. “It’s almost feel like I’m floating on a cloud in the sky. Of course, I did have many winnings in other tournaments, but winning here at U.S. Open means so much more.
Choi was the low amateur for the second straight year. She was 38th in 2016. The only drawback was she could not pocket the $540,000 second-place prize.
“I mean it will be nice if I could get the money but I think my primary goal was to come here and compete so, to me, getting this second place in runner-up actually means more to me,” the 17-year-old said.
Top-ranked So Yeon Ryu (70) and fellow South Korean Mi Jung Hur (68) tied for third at 7 under. Feng, from China, had a 75 to drop into a tie for fifth at 6 under with Spain’s Carlota Ciganda (70) and South Korea’s Jeongeun6 Lee (71).
South Koreans Sei Young Kim (69), Mirim Lee (72) and Amy Yang (75) tied for eighth at 5 under. Marina Alex of nearby Wayne, New Jersey, was the best of the American at 4 under after a 70. It was the worst finish in the Open for the top American since Paula Creamer was seventh in 2012.
Choi was the story for most of the final round. She had a two-shot lead with nine holes to play and needed a 5-foot birdie at 15 to regain a piece with Park, who had made a 20-footer in the group in front of her.
The 139-yard, par-3 16th over water ended Choi’s hopes. Her 7-iron landed in the water to the right of the hole. She ended with a double bogey and basically lost her chance of winning.
“At the time I felt that all this work, hard work I put together was going to disappear so I was bit disappointed but I had to refocus,” said Choi, who birdied the final hole.
Choi’s 279 was the best by an amateur in the Open, four shots better than the old mark by Grace Park in 1999. Catherine Lacoste remains the only amateur to win the Open, doing it in 1967.
Feng, who was the leader after the first three rounds and carried a one-shot edge into the final 18 holes, triple bogeyed the final hole.
“I think overall, before the last hole I did pretty well,” said Feng, who had only two birdies in the last two rounds. “I mean I did a good job hanging in right there because my putting was not really that great.”
It was not her first professional win for Park, who won seven times on the KLPGA Tour in 2016 and three times the year before.
“She’s young and long so she hits the ball very long and very straight, very accurate and has very good short game, also,” Feng said about Park. “I don’t see any weak part in her game.”