CHICAGO • Park Sung-hyun rarely reveals her emotions on the golf course. But the South Korean showed how much winning the Women's PGA Championship meant on Sunday when she burst into tears and hugged her caddie David Jones after outlasting compatriot Ryu So-yeon and Japan's Nasa Hataoka in a three-way play-off.
All three had finished 72 holes at Kemper Lakes deadlocked at 10-under par 278 and three shots clear of Americans Jessica Korda (68) and Angel Yin (71).
World No. 5 Ryu, who closed with a one-over 73, and sixth-ranked Park (69) each birdied the first play-off hole, the par-four 18th, while Hataoka (64) was eliminated with a par.
The South Koreans, who shared LPGA Player of the Year honours in 2017, reached the green at the par-four 16th, the second play-off hole, 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 15-foot birdie putt and Park sank hers from 10 feet before breaking down.
It was the second Major of her career but arrived in the midst of a difficult season. She had missed the cut five times from 12 starts and was struggling with her game.
"It's been a tough year for me with five missed cuts. I think all the work I've done has paid off today. That's what really made me cry," said the 24-year-old, who did not make a single bogey over the last 30 holes of the tournament.
"I still can't believe that I'm sitting right next to this trophy."
A key moment came at the 16th hole when her approach came up short and settled in the high grass on the edge of the pond.
After a lengthy discussion with Jones, Park played a stunning shot to save par.
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 turned 28 on Friday, would have reclaimed the No. 1 ranking with a win after starting the day with a three-stroke lead.
HARD WORK PAYS OFF
It's been a tough year for me with five missed cuts. I think all the work I've done has paid off today. That's what really made me cry. I still can't believe that I'm sitting right next to this trophy.
PARK SUNG-HYUN, South Korean golfer who won the Women's PGA Championship on Sunday, the second Major of her career in the midst of a difficult season.
The two-time Major winner stumbled with a double bogey at the par-four second but recovered with four birdies and led by two with two holes remaining in regulation.
Disaster struck at the par-three 17th as she collected another double bogey after finding water with her seven-iron tee shot. She said later she had trouble gauging what club to use in the fluctuating wind.
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 move one step closer to a career Grand Slam.
"I did my best," she 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."
For Park, it was sweet vindication after a rough few months.
She said: "Actually this is my first time feeling like this kind of emotion, like being this emotional... and I was really happy."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS