So Yeon Ryu moves to World No. 1 after winning Arkansas Championship

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So Yeon Ryu moves to World No. 1 after winning Arkansas Championship

LPGA Tour

So Yeon Ryu moves to World No. 1 after winning Arkansas Championship

No dark cloud hung over this victory. So Yeon Ryu, a constant ray of sunshine on the LPGA, became the first repeat winner on the LPGA this season when she claimed a two-stroke victory at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Ryu’s first title of 2017 admittedly came with sadness. She won the ANA Inspiration outright in a playoff against Lexi Thompson, but the outrage over Thompson’s four-stroke penalty left some believing Ryu was an undeserving champion.

“Some of the people could think she’s not a true champion, no matter what,” said Ryu in the weeks that followed ANA. “Because of all that thing, I also wanted to prove, well, I can win without any hassles.”

Ryu’s fifth career victory included a course-record 61 in the second round, which set up tournament record 18-under 195 total. She finished two shots ahead of Amy Yang and Moriya Jutanugarn, who posted a career-best showing.

Arkansas alum Stacy Lewis eagled the 18th hole to take a share of fourth with fellow American Michelle Wie. That’s three consecutive top-4 finishes for Wiesy heading into next week’s major championship.

The victory gives Ryu the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings, as the rankings have been updated for June 26. Ryu jumped from third to first in the latest update. Ryu held a five-shot lead going into the final round of the 54-hole event but wasn’t comfortable until it ended on Sunday.

“When you have a five-shot lead, everybody is for sure, ‘Oh, you now, you’re going to win the tournament,’ ” said Ryu. “But this is golf. I shot 10 under yesterday, so that means somebody has a chance to shoot 10 under as well.”

In truth, Ryu said her closing 69 felt like an 80 considering how well she played the first two days. Ryu credited her longtime mental coach, Soo Kyung Cho, with helping her stay focused.

“Don’t try to be perfect,” Cho told Ryu. Cho also works with Ryu’s close friend Inbee Park.

On the same day that Jordan Spieth won the Travelers Championship in dramatic fashion, Ryu gave instructor Cameron McCormick a pair of victories in the span of minutes.

Earlier last year, Ryu made the switch to McCormick, moving from Los Angeles to Dallas to show her commitment.

Not long after winning the ANA, Ryu missed her first cut since 2014 at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, ending the longest active cut streak on tour. She took two weeks off and worked on her technique with McCormick. She also reunited with friend Ian Baker-Finch, who helped restore her confidence on the putting green. She even played a round of golf with Nick Price, who praised her smooth putting stroke.

A refreshed Ryu returned to the circuit a new woman, praising all who had supported her.

“I wanted to win another tournament,” said Ryu. “I wanted to prove I’m ready to win a tournament and here we are. I mean, here I am. I won this tournament. I feel a bit more free than after ANA Inspiration.”

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