Golf: South Korea's Park Sung-hyun wins Women's PGA Championship in playoff

Park Sung Hyun poses with the Women's PGA Championship Trophy after winning in a playoff round of the Women's PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes Golf Club in Kildeer, Illinois, on July 1, 2018.
Park Sung Hyun poses with the Women's PGA Championship Trophy after winning in a playoff round of the Women's PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes Golf Club in Kildeer, Illinois, on July 1, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

CHICAGO (AFP) - South Korea's Park Sung-hyun birdied twice in a weather-disrupted playoff on Sunday (July 1) to win the Women's PGA Championship, capturing the second major women's golf title of her career.

The 24-year-old from Seoul, last year's US Women's Open champion, defeated compatriot Ryu So-yeon, denying her bid to reclaim the world No. 1 ranking, and Japanese teen star Nasa Hataoka in the playoff to capture the US$547,500 (S$746,620) top prize.

"It was a really long round today and I still can't believe I'm sitting next to this trophy," Park said.

Hataoka and the South Koreans each finished 72 holes at Kemper Lakes deadlocked at 10-under 278.

Fifth-ranked Ryu and sixth-ranked Park each birdied the first playoff hole, the par-four 18th, while Nataoka was eliminated with a par.

The Koreans, who shared LPGA Player of the Year honours in 2017, reached the green at the par-four 16th, the second playoff role, when play was suspended for dangerous weather in the area, halting the drama at its peak for 20 minutes as the tension mounted.

When play resumed, Ryu missed her birdie putt and Park sank hers for the victory, then broke into tears.

"I got less nervous during the playoff. I was even joking," Park said. "I was a little worried, but even though it was a tough week, I feel like I played really well. All the hard work paid off and that's what made me cry."

Park, last year's LPGA Rookie of the Year, won her second title of the year after the LPGA Texas Classic in May. It was her fourth LPGA title overall after last year's US and Canadian Women's Open crowns.

Ryu, who won last year's ANA Inspiration and the 2011 US Women's Open, took her first title of the year two weeks ago at the LPGA Meijer Classic and hoped to more one step closer to a career Grand Slam.

"I did my best," Ryu said. "If I look back, nothing I can do any better than that. I just did 100 per cent effort. Every shot, every putt and still looking at the positive side. This is my best finish for this tournament, so hopefully it's going to keep improving, and one day I want to lift that trophy."

Ryu, who turned 28 on Friday, would have overtaken Park Sung-hyun atop the rankings with a victory after starting the day with a three-stroke lead.

Hataoka, 19, won her first LPGA title last week in Arkansas and with more than US$546,000 in the past eight days, has eclipsed her prior career earnings.

In the final round, Ryu stumbled with a double bogey at the par-four second and Park birdied the par-three third and par-five fourth to seize a share of the lead.

But Ryu birdied the par-three sixth and par-five seventh to restore a two-stroke edge at 11-under.

Ryu added a birdie at the par-five 11th but took a bogey at the par-three 13th to stand only one ahead of Nataoka, with Park closing to within one after a birdie at the 14th.

Ryu responded with a birdie at the 16th, giving her a two-shot lead, but found water at the par-three 17th and made a double bogey, falling back level with Nataoka and Park, who both parred the 18th to force extra holes.