Inbee Park Wins 2013 Wegmans LPGA Championship
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Last updated: Friday, June 21, 2013

Inbee Park (click to enlarge)

Babe Zaharias, Patty Berg, Mickey Wright, Sandra Haynie, Pat Bradley and Annika Sorenstam. Before the 2013 Wegmans LPGA Championship that was the list of players who won the first 2 LPGA Majors of the year. Bradley and Sorenstam were members of an even more exclusive club, that of players to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship and LPGA Championship in the same year. There is a new member of those elite sororities. Inbee Park took her position as a new star in both constellations of all-time greats by capturing the first 2 Majors of 2013, the Kraft Nabisco Championship and Wegmans LPGA Championship. In a sudden death playoff, Inbee bested Catriona Matthew with a birdie on the 3rd hole to win her 7th LPGA tournament and 4th of 2013.

Morgan Pressel (click to enlarge)

Forced to play 36 holes on Sunday due to a Thursday rain out, it appeared Inbee Park and Morgan Pressel would have company at the top of the leaderboard in the final 18 holes from fellow Major winners Jiyai Shin, Na Yeon Choi and Sun Young Yoo. Instead, that trio of great champions would wilt, leaving an almost match-play feel between Inbee and Morgan. A birdie by Pressel on 8 paired with a bogey by Park on the same hole resulted in a tie at 7-under on the 9th tee. After the turn, bogeys by Morgan on 10 and 12 coupled with a birdie by Inbee on 11 provided the world #1 with a 3 shot cushion.

Pressel wouldn’t get closer than 2 shots until the 18th, when she shaved the difference to 1 as Park almost gave away the tournament with 3 bogeys in the final 5 holes. It would prove too little, too late for Morgan, made all the more maddening by a long birdie attempt on 14 that was half-way down the hole before spinning out. In fact, it was Suzann Pettersen racing up the leaderboard with the low round of the day who looked like the player that would benefit from the shaky play of Inbee on the back 9. Ultimately, Tutta also hit the accelerator too late to match or overtake Park. The player who would have the opportunity to make Inbee pay for falling from 8-under after the 3rd round to 5-under at the end of 4th round regulation play was 2009 Women’s British Open champion Catriona Matthew.

Catriona Matthew (click to enlarge)

Starting her 4th round 7 shots south of Inbee Park at 1-under, Matthew carded a bogey-free 4-under 68 to catch the falling Inbee at 5-under. Momentum clearly appeared to be with Catriona going into the playoff. Give Inbee credit. Her mettle, not only her skill, was called upon and she answered in triumph. The playoff started on the par 4 18th. Considering how Inbee came in down the back 9, you had to wonder if she might effectively lose with a pulled tee shot. She did manage to find the fairway and the green, but she was far left on the green. Matthew hit a 7-iron approach shot from 145 yards to around 15 feet of the pin. Advantage Matthew. However, Catriona and Inbee would both 2-putt for par. The 2nd hole of the playoff was hole 10, also a par 4 and the 2nd most difficult hole of the day.

Matthew sliced far right off the tee into the rough with a bad lie. Advantage Park. Catriona received a momentary reprieve when Inbee hit the green but had to deal with a tricky slope. After hitting from the rough to the fairway, Matthew stuck her 3rd shot 5 feet from the hole. Although Park had a birdie putt to win, it was a long putt from a severe shelf. She hit a great putt to 1 foot, but it was not enough to end matters as both players settled for par. It was back to 18 for a third playoff hole. Like the previous hole, Catriona went far right into the rough again, ceding the advantage to Inbee who nestled in the fairway.

As the shadows started to creep across Locust Hill Country Club, the sun began to set on Matthew. Inbee’s 2nd shot landed on the green around 20 feet from the the hole while Catriona’s 2nd shot went from the right rough to the left rough in a horrible lie. Matthew’s 3rd shot dribbled out to the primary cut of rough well short of the green. She needed a miracle 4th shot to have any chance. It was not to be as she managed to find the green but left Inbee needing only to 2 putt to win. One of the greatest putters on tour, Inbee wouldn’t keep us in suspense. She nailed the 20-footer for birdie, the championship and back to back Major victories.

Inbee celebrates her birdie on the 3rd playoff hole (click to enlarge)

A few final thoughts. Great effort from Catriona Matthew, who at 43 still has world-class golf in her. For Morgan Pressel, she joins Matthew and Amy Yang in qualifying for the 2013 CME Group Titleholders. More importantly, she earned some much needed Solheim points. That was also true for Michelle Wie, the only other American to finish in the top 10 at Wegmans. There were 2 players, Chella Choi and Amy Yang, among the players tied for 5th that I look at in a similar light. Both are very talented. Both have knocked on the door, but have yet to achieve their first LPGA victory. I don’t want to say it’s just a matter of time, because you never know. Several years ago I would have said it was only a matter of time before Angela Park won her first LPGA event. Who knows what the future will bring? When players have a chance to win, they have to close the deal.

I certainly hope Amy and Chella do cash in on their first wins, especially since Chella’s dad, who wants to retire from being her caddie, doesn’t get to do so until she earns her first LPGA title. Finally, Inbee Park, the champion. The best women’s player in the world. It’s amazing how much things have changed since the beginning of the year. At that time, it seemed this tour was firmly in the hands of Stacy Lewis, then-#1 and winner of back to back tournaments early in the year. 2 Majors later, and Inbee is clearly atop the mountain. The question now is where the evolution of Park leading. She’s a 3 time LPGA Major winner. She’s won a Major on the JLPGA. She’s ranked #1 with 4 victories in 2013 with 15 events still to play. Are we witnessing the beginning of a phase in her career that will lead to all-time great status or is she merely a great player on a great run? I can’t wait to find out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MaToJcxY6c

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KbELVVrHD0

Inbee Park (click to enlarge)

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