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Park Sung-hyun set to return to No. 1 after NW Arkansas win


LOS ANGELES: Park Sung-hyun birdied the final hole on Sunday to grab a one-shot victory at the NW Arkansas Championship and was set to return to world number one after her seventh LPGA title. Park, 25, notched her second win of the season and is projected to rise to No. 1 on Monday, taking over the top spot from fellow South Korean Ko Jin-young. Ko was on hand to help Park celebrate, dousing her with water on the 18th green at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas, as the 54-hole tournament concluded.

Park fired a five-under par 66. She had gained a share of the lead after back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14, and two-putted for birdie from 50 feet at the final hole, her tap-in lifting her to victory. “To be honest, my round today didn’t go as well as I thought it would,” said Park, who was just one-under on the front nine with two birdies and a bogey. “But I talked with my caddie, and we both said there’s still a lot of hope left. Every single shot was really important.”

That left South Korean star Park In-bee, compatriot Kim Hyo-joo and American Danielle Kang sharing second on 17-under 196. All three carded six-under par 65s in the final round. Kim had become the first player to reach 17-under with six birdies in her six-under front nine. But she played the back nine in even par with bogeys at 12 and 13 followed by birdies at 14 and 15.

Park In-bee, seeking a 20th LPGA title, had six birdies in her six-under effort, while Kang challenged late with an eagle at 14 and birdies at 16, 17 and 18.

“I definitely finished well,” Kang said. “I gave everything I’ve got the last nine holes, so came up one shot short. Wish we could have gone to play-off.”

Park In-bee, who fired a first-round 62 on Friday to launch her bid for a first title since the 2018 Founders Cup, said her putting just wasn’t good enough.

“I had a lot of birdie opportunities, but I wasn’t able to convert enough,” she said. “My putting was just a little bit weak compared to other parts of the game today.”

Park Sung-hyun, who won the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore in March and was runner-up in the Women’s PGA Championship last week, will return to number one for the fourth time in her career — something she acknowledged has sometimes been a mixed blessing.

“It would definitely be good to be back on the top, but to be honest, there was a lot of pressure when I was the No. 1,” she said. — AFP

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