Grace Park couldn’t have started worse in the final round of the Michelob Light Open. She also couldn’t have dreamed up a better finish.
Park began the day a shot in front of Cristie Kerr, but after opening with a drive into the water that led to a double bogey on the first hole, then making bogeys on Nos. 2 and 4 – the latter after a shank into the gallery – she trailed Kerr by three shots May 4.
“I literally said it to myself: ‘Believe in yourself.’ . . . If it’s meant to be, things will come your way,” Park said.
By the end of the day, they had. The South Korean picked herself up, played well after her sloppy start and rolled in a 20-foot, double-breaking par putt on the final hole to finish at 9-under 275 and earn a one-shot victory over Kerr, Karrie Webb (67) and rookie Lorena Ochoa (69). Park and Kerr finished with even-par 71s.
It was a complete turnaround from the beginning of the day, when Park couldn’t do anything right.
“I was trying not to watch. . . . She had a horrible start,” Kerr said of Park, a close friend who will be a bridesmaid at Kerr’s wedding. “A lot of people would have given up.”
Instead, after a quick pep talk to herself, Park made consecutive birdies on Nos. 5-7 to remain in contention.
Kerr, trying to become the first American player to win an LPGA event in nearly nine months, led most of the final round and had a three-shot lead with four holes remaining, but she made crucial back-to-back bogeys at the par-5 15th and the par-4 16th. Park birdied the same two holes for a quick four-shot swing that put her up by one.
Before her bogey at 15, Kerr had played the par 5s in 10 under for the week, including a final-round eagle at No. 7 that kept her two shots ahead.
“I felt really good about the way I was striking the ball out there,” Kerr said. “Unfortunately, coming down the stretch I hit two bad shots.”
Park came to the final hole needing only par for her fourth LPGA victory, but drove into the rough, missed the green with her approach and chipped to 20 feet. Kerr missed a 35-foot for birdie, then Park and caddie David Brooker took their time lining up her putt on the heavily undulated green. Park had made a similar-length putt on 18 the day before, though from a different position, for her one-shot lead through 54 holes.
“It was kind of a double breaker,” she said of Sunday’s putt. “(We) just kept fidgeting with it, looking for a good line.”
The triumph continued a personal streak for Park, who said she has never lost a tournament – even in junior golf – after leading through three rounds.
“Maybe I had little doubts here and there (on the front nine),” she said, “but my caddie just kept saying to me, ‘We can do it. We can do it.’ And my streak still stands.”
– From staff and wire reports