I. Park ends season the way she started – with a win

Inbee Park

MIYAZAKI, Japan – Inbee Park finished the year as she began it – with a victory in Japan.

The 2008 Women’s U.S. Open champion completed a memorable year for Koreans on the Japan LPGA Tour by claiming victory in the season-ending Tour Championship Ricoh Cup.

In tough scoring conditions, Park closed with a 1-over 73. Her 72-hole total of 1-under 287 gave her a four-shot victory over compatriot Ahn Sun-ju and Japan’s Mika Miyazato in the 100 million yen (US$1.1 million) event at Miyazaki Golf Club.

Park’s triumph was her second of the season after winning the Nishijin Ladies in March. Park also recorded 11 top-10 finishes on the U.S. LPGA tour this year.

Three shots clear going into the final round, the 22-year-old Park made a birdie on the opening hole Sunday and was never seriously threatened, despite a double bogey at the par-5 second.

Ahn’s runner-up finish capped an unforgettable season where she was crowned champion of the Japan LPGA Money List. With four wins and two runner-up finishes this season, Ahn is the first non-Japanese winner of the money title since Taiwan’s Tu Ai-yu in 1991.

Meanwhile, U.S. LPGA tour regular Mika Miyazato, who captured the first title of her professional career at the Japan Women’s Open last month, said she was delighted to share second considering she trailed Ahn by three shots with two holes remaining.

At No. 17, Miyazato made birdie, while Ahn lost a stroke. Miyazato then drew level when the Korean dropped another shot at No. 18.

Defending champion Sakura Yokomine of Japan posted a 75 and finished T-9 at 296.

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