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Park captures U.S. Women’s Open crown; Miyazato finishes 41st

AP, Kyodo

After weeks of uncertainty, the U.S. Women’s Open stopped being about President Donald Trump, his course and his views toward women and it turned out to be what the USGA wanted: a good tournament on a good course.

Not surprisingly, the best player this week won, making up for a bad weekend in this event a year ago.

Park Sung-hyun shot her second straight 5-under 67 on Sunday and won a final-round battle with front-running Shanshan Feng and teenage amateur sensation Choi Hye-jin at Trump National Golf Club for her first LPGA Tour victory.

The 23-year-old Park birdied the 15th to move into a tie for the lead and the 17th to open a two-shot edge after Choi made a double bogey to squander her chance of becoming the second amateur to win the event.

Park finished with an 11-under total of 277, two shots better than Choi, who shot a final-round 71.

It was a far cry from a year ago when Park hit into the water on the 18th hole at CordeValle in California and missed a playoff with eventual winner Britanny Lang and Anna Nordqvist by two shots.

“The experience was definitely worth it, because based on that good experience that I had last year, I think I was able to garner the championship this year,” Park said through an interpreter.

Harukyo Nomura had the best finish by a Japanese golfer at 33rd with a 2-over-290 total.

Nomura, who started the day in 10th place, was unable to move forward, suffering a five-bogey, double-bogey back-nine collapse. She also had two birdies for a 77 that left her tied with five others.

“The golf itself was not bad,” Nomura said. “I had unlucky moments in the last half of the round, and it was difficult with bogeys and double bogeys.”

Ai Miyazato, who will retire at the end of the season, finished the day at 74 with a pair of birdies and four bogeys.

“The four days (of the tournament) were stressful, so I’m glad that it’s over,” said Miyazato, who finished with a 4-over 292 total. “The U.S. Open has felt like it was in my reach, but in reality it’s beyond me.”

“I think I finish higher if more putts fall,” said Miyazato, a former world No. 1 who has yet to win a major. “Still, there are (two) more majors left for me to play.”

The USGA was criticized for not moving the event from Trump National after comments made by the president about women came to light during the election campaign. There were threats of protests, especially after Trump decided to attend the tournament after his trip to Paris on Thursday and Friday.

Trump arrived Friday and became the first sitting president to attend a U.S. Women’s Open, seeing parts of the final three rounds. There was a small protest after he arrived at his box near the 15th green shortly after 3 p.m., but it was peaceful.

It ended up being a quiet week of politics at the course. The golf was excellent.

Park needed a fine chip from over the green on the par-5 18th hole to save par and win the $900,000 top prize from the $5 million event.

Walking to the scoring tent to sign her card, she got a thumps-up from Trump from his box.

“Well, to be honest with you, I still cannot believe that it is actually happening,” said Park, who is the leading rookie on the LPGA Tour. “It’s almost feels like I’m floating on a cloud in the sky. Of course, I did have many winnings in other tournaments, but winning here at U.S. Open means so much more.

Choi was the low amateur for the second straight year. She was 38th in 2016. The only drawback was she could not pocket the $540,000 second-place prize.

“I mean it will be nice if I could get the money but I think my primary goal was to come here and compete so, to me, getting this second place in runner-up actually means more to me,” the 17-year-old said.

Top-ranked Ryu So-yeon (70) and fellow South Korean Hur Mi-jung (68) tied for third at 7 under. Feng, from China, had a 75 to drop into a tie for fifth at 6 under with Spain’s Carlota Ciganda (70) and South Korea’s Jeongeun6 Lee (71).

South Koreans Kim Sei-young (69), Mirim Lee (72) and Amy Yang (75) tied for eighth at 5 under.