Inbee Park saved her best round of the year - 8-under-par 64 - for Sunday at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex to secure her 17th LPGA title.
Inbee Park saved her best round of the year - 8-under-par 64 - for Sunday at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex to secure her 17th LPGA title and fifth this season.
Park needed the splendid Sunday, too, with Carlota Ciganda hard charging up from behind with a career-low 9-under-par 63, the best round of the tournament. But when Ciganda got to six-under for the day through seven holes to tie Park, the world No. 2 responded with a beautiful five birdie, zero bogeys 5-under-par 31 on the back to edge Ciganda out by three at 18-under-par for the tournament.
“It was fun. It was birdies after birdies, so it was fun. Carlota really got me going,” Park said. “It was three good rounds but obviously the last round is the one that counts and the last three days I felt like I made some mistakes but today I think I got rid of all of that. I played really well.”
For Park, the win is not only a victory at a tournament that had previously eluded her with three top-fours in the three years prior. It also made the season finale next week - the CME Group Tour Championship - a lot more interesting as Park’s 18-under-par 270 has pushed her ahead of Lydia Ko in the Vare Trophy standings by just 0.0161 shots per round. Park’s victory also puts the Rolex Player of the Year trophy firmly up for grabs next week as she has pulled within just three points of Ko. Park will need a minimum of an eight-place finish to tie Ko in the player of the year standings if Ko doesn’t post a top-10 herself.
“I knew that I had to do something big this week to have any chance coming into the Tour Championship,” Park said. “It’s great. It brings a lot of excitement to have something in your hand finishing off the season. I’ll definitely try to play my best next week, I’ll give it all I got, and just try to play good golf like I did this week.”
Ciganda didn’t leave with the trophy but she did leave with the best round of her career and the knowledge that she can perform in the hunt for victory in the final group. Despite trailing by four shots entering the day, Ciganda birdied the first, eagled the second and was quickly within two shots of Park. Ciganda didn’t relent either with birdies on four, five and seven to tie Park for the lead on the seventh. Despite birdies from Park on six of her final 11 holes, Ciganda still had a shot down the stretch. She pulled within one shot with a birdie on the 14th but made a disappointing bogey on the 16th hole and watched as Park birdied her final two holes for good measure.
“If they told me at the beginning, I’d get a 63, I’d played some really good golf,” Ciganda said. “I started really well with birdie, eagle, so I had a great time. Inbee played unbelievable and she has lots of experience and she knows how to win. Just congratulate her on such a great win.”
This was a long time coming for Park here in Mexico in her estimation. She had been close in years past - runner-up in 2012, fourth in 2013, third in 2014 - but hadn’t been able to close the deal until Sunday.
2015 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Sei Young Kim finished in third at 13-under-par while Park’s best friend, So Yeon Ryu, finished in solo fourth and showered Park with champagne on the 18th green after she finished. Japan’s Sakura Yokomine finished in fifth at 9-under-par, which was the rookie’s best finish of the season.