WATERLOO, Ont. — Heading into the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, all the talk dealt with Inbee Park: Would someone derail her juggernaut?
A Park did win, but it was Inbee’s South Korean compatriot, Hee Young Park, who took top honours, winning in a dramatic three-hole, sudden-death playoff over American Angela Stanford at the Grey Silo Golf Club Sunday.
“This week I made a lot of putts,” the winning Park said. “Some putts [were] lucky, some putts just pretty solid, but I keep trying [the] same routine all the time.”
Park, ranked 37th in the world, earned $195,000 (U.S.) for her second win on the tour.
World No. 1 Inbee Park, a winner of three majors this season, was trying to win her fourth consecutive LPGA event. She entered the final day seven strokes off the lead and shot a 68, including two eagles, to finish in a tie for 14th at 16 under par.
In what was a leaderboard roller coaster over the final 18 holes, with three different competitors taking turns on top, it was Hee Young Park and Stanford left standing after regulation play. Both finished with a four-round total of 258, good for 26 under par after Stanford carded a seven-under-par 64 while Park, who held a one-shot lead over her rival heading into the day, shot 65.
“Yeah, it seems kind of tough to swallow right now,” Stanford said about finishing 26 under and still not winning. “But you know like today, if somebody would have told me you’re going to shoot 64 today and not win, I would have thought they were crazy.”
Park, who trailed by as many as three strokes early on the back nine, quickly made up ground with five birdies over the closing holes, including the 17th and 18th,, to force the playoff.
Both players birdied the first two extras before disaster struck Stanford. After her drive found the rough, Stanford mishit her second shot and her ball travelled only about 100 yards and into a fairway bunker.
“It looked like it was in a hole and I kept asking my caddy, ‘Does that look like it’s sitting in a hole?’” a disbelieving Stanford said. “By far the worst lie I had all week in four days.”
Stanford’s third shot was to the back fringe of the green and she missed a 60-foot attempt for birdie.
Park, who was on the front of the green, then two-putted to make birdie and win the title.
Scotland’s Catriona Matthew, who began the day in third place two strokes back, was leading by as many as two strokes after 12, but could not keep pace. She shot a 66 to finish in third at 23 under, three strokes back.
Stanford was long on a 30-foot eagle attempt on the 18th that would have given her the victory in regulation.
Park paid her back by missing an eight-footer for eagle that would have won her the championship on the first extra hole.
Park shot herself into tournament contention on Saturday when she carded a stunning 10-under-par 61, the 11th player in LPGA history to shoot so low.
Top Canadian at the event was Hamilton’s Alena Sharp, who shot a final-round 65 to finish in a 30th-place tie at 11 under par.
Sharp has been playing well of late with four top-10 finishes in the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s development arm. Her best LPGA finish this year was a 13th-place tie at the LPGA Classic in the Bahamas in May.
“I feel like the last month and a half has been really consistent ball striking, my putting’s coming around,” Sharp, 32, said. “I’m working hard on my shot game, it’s showing. I’m getting up and down when I miss the greens, and before I wasn’t.”
Sharp will head to Scotland next month to try to qualify for the Women’s British Open at St. Andrews.
“I’ve got to go and give it a try,” she said. “It’s a big purse. I’ve played well at St. Andrews the last time they were there.”
Brooke Henderson, a 15-year-old amateur from Smiths Falls, Ont., did not look out of place, shooting a final-round 67 to finish at 10 under, good for a tie for 35th.