Park's playoff birdie earns NW Arkansas victory

Inbee Park

Inbee Park

The Walmart NW Arkansas Championship can be summed up with what is becoming a familiar line on the LPGA tour: Inbee Park wins again. The World No. 1 defeated So Yeon Ryu in a playoff on Sunday to earn her fifth victory this season. Five things from the final round at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Ark.:

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1. QUICK PLAYOFF: It only took one hole for Park to knock off Ryu in a sudden-death playoff in Arkansas. The two players finished regulation at 12-under 201, then returned to the par-5 18th, where Park rolled in a 4-foot birdie putt to win. It’s the second playoff victory for Park in the past two events. She also won the Wegmans LPGA Championship on June 9 after beating Catriona Matthew on the third extra hole.

Park began the day two shots back of a group of four leaders, but moved to the top of the leaderboard with three consecutive birdies on the front nine. She dropped a shot with a bogey on the par-3 11th before birdies on 14 and 18 sent her to the playoff. Ryu birdied Nos. 17 and 18 in the final round to recover from a double-bogey at the par-4 13th. She four-putted that green.

Park not only owns five victories this season, but has won each of the first two majors. She ran away at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, winning by four shots, and added the Wegmans LPGA victory earlier this month. Park now has seven wins in her last 23 starts.

This latest victory serves as an ideal warm-up for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open, to be played at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. Park’s only other U.S. Women’s Open victory came in 2008, when she was just 19 years old.

• • •

2. AGAIN, SO CLOSE: Mika Miyazato’s bogey-free final-round 67 wasn’t quite enough to get her into the playoff with Park and Ryu. “Not quite enough” is a familiar feeling for Miyazato at Pinnacle Golf Club. The 23-year-old finished with a share of second here last year.

Miyazato, No. 15 in the Rolex Rankings, followed last year’s close call with a T-7 at the Women’s Open. She went on to win the Safeway Classic two months later.

• • •

3. KO WATCH: Not surprisingly Lydia Ko was the low amateur at the NW Arkansas Championship, and hovered just one shot off the lead for most of Sunday afternoon. The 16-year-old shot a bogey-free 68 on Sunday to finish at 10-under 203, tied for fourth. Here’s a more impressive stat: This week’s made cut is Ko’s 15th consecutive in professional events.

Ko played the event on a sponsor exemption, and will remain stateside for the U.S. Women’s Open. Ko was low amateur at that event last year when it was held at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis. She’ll be one of 17 teenagers in the field.

• • •

4. MIGHT AS WELL BE A LOCAL: After a collegiate career at the University of Arkansas that included 12 individual victories, Stacy Lewis is as good as a local at the NW Arkansas Championship, famous for its hog calls.

Lewis took a share of the lead into the final round, but couldn’t keep pace on Sunday. She made a double-bogey at the par-5 seventh, recovered with birdies at Nos. 8 and 10, bogeyed No. 15 then birdied the 18th to finish. Lewis finished with a 10-under 2013 total for a share of third.

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5. SHORT SHOTS: Arkansas sophomore Gaby Lopez missed the cut with round of 79-74. . . . Beatriz Recari made a 47th consecutive cut at the Pinnacle Golf Club. Recari is No. 25 in the Rolex Rankings. . . . After a second-round 65, Juli Inkster was in position to earn her first top-10 finish since 2011. The Hall of Famer shot a a final-round 70 to finish T-13.

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