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Park’s playoff birdie earns NW Arkansas victory

June 24, 2013

ROGERS, Arkansas (AP) — World No. 1 Inbee Park sank a 4-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole against So Yeon Ryu to cap her final-round rally and win the LPGA NW Arkansas Championship.

The victory is the second straight for Park, who won the LPGA Championship two weeks ago, and the fifth of the year for the South Korean star. She now has seven wins in her last 23 starts.

Park began the day two shots back of a group of four leaders, but she vaulted to the top with three straight 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.

Park and Ryu finished the tournament tied at 12 under, one shot ahead of Mika Miyazato. It’s the second straight year Miyazato has finished as the runner-up.

Amateur Lydia Ko, I.K. Kim and local favorite and world No. 2 Stacy Lewis, who played at nearby University of Arkansas, each finished two shots back.

Ryu and Park were tied entering the final hole of regulation at 11 under, with Park playing one group ahead of her fellow South Korean.

Park reached 12 under with an 8-foot birdie putt, while Ryu answered with a similar 8-footer a group later — sending the players back to the par-5 18th tee for the playoff.

Park found the fairway off the tee, and after her second shot came up just short of the green, she chipped within 4 feet.

That put pressure on Ryu to hole a chip for birdie from just off the back of the green — a chip she narrowly missed. Park then calmly sank her birdie putt to end the tournament and once again find herself a winner.

She’ll head to next week’s U.S. Open with five wins, including the first two majors of the year, on this season’s resume.

Ryu, No. 5 in the world, led at 12 under midway through the round. However, she four-putted the par-4 13th for a double bogey.

She pulled back to 11 under with a birdie on the par-3 17th before answering Park’s final-hole birdie on the 18th.

Park looked every bit like the top-ranked player in the world on Sunday. She began the day at 8 under, then quickly jumped to the top of the leaderboard with Ryu after three straight birdies on the front nine. Park also saved par out of a fairway bunker on the par-4 ninth.

Lewis began the day as the co-leader and local favorite, with a gallery full of Arkansas fans following her every shot. But she stumbled with a double bogey on the par-5 seventh. After driving in the bunker, she took two shots out of the greenside bunker before missing a short bogey putt.

Lewis bounced back with birdies on the next two holes to once again reach 10 under. She later missed birdie putts on 11 and 12 and was unable to get closer than one shot, dropping out of contention after back-to-back bogeys and on 15 and 16.

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