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Park pulls through PARK PULLS THROUGH PLAYOFF ISN'T NECESSARY AFTER CLUTCH PUTT ON 18TH Park pulls through, playoff isn't necessary after clutch putt on 18
During her brutal start, Grace Park kept looking at the leaderboard, half-expecting to see her chances of winning the inaugural Michelob Light Open disappearing. Those thoughts often creep into a golfer's head when their first shot finds water and they later shank a simple approach shot.
But despite the double bogey-par-bogey-bogey beginning to her round, Park realized it was early.
"Nobody was really making a lot of birdies," Park said. "I knew if I could keep making pars and a few birdies, I could pull it off." And with a string of pars and two birdies on the back nine, Park did pull it off, winning the LPGA Tour's first stop at Kingsmill with an 18-foot par putt on No. 18.
Park, 25, finished at 9-under after an even-par 71. Her putt on the closing hole prevented a four-way playoff. Cristie Kerr (final-round 71), Karrie Webb (67) and Lorena Ochoa (69) tied for second, a shot back. Annika Sorenstam closed with a third straight 70 and finished sixth.
For her fourth tour victory, Park collected a personal-best $240,000 and proved one doesn't have to hit fairways and greens to win. The last hole was proof.
Park hit her tee shot on 18 into the left rough and followed with a 5-wood that landed in the left rough, 75 feet from the pin. A deft chip rolled past the hole and left her with a long par putt.
Kerr played next -- she had 25 feet for birdie.
"Quite honestly, I had a putt to win," she said. "Yeah, it was a tough putt, but if I could make it and she would miss hers, I would have been at 9 under and everybody else would have been at 8 under."
Kerr's putt ran six feet past the hole. But Park's work wasn't done. She needed to save par to prevent a playoff. And she did.
"It was a double breaker -- left to right in the beginning and right to left at the end," she said.
Of the runners-up, Kerr had the toughest finish. After a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 14, she was at 10 under, leading three players by two strokes and Park by three with four holes remaining.
On No. 15, Kerr bogeyed and Park birdied. On 16, Park hit a 30-foot birdie putt and Kerr missed an 8-foot par attempt, moving Park a shot ahead.
The comeback completed a wacky round to a wacky tournament for Park. She led the contenders in birdies (21) but also double bogeys (three). In the final round, she hit eight of 18 greens in regulation and missed half of her 14 fairways.
Park didn't hit a green in regulation until No. 6, ending a horrid start:
First hole -- tee shot into the water and double bogey; second hole -- tee shot into the bunker and bogey; third hole -- approach shot into the rough and a par; fourth hole -- tee shot into left rough, followed by a shank across the cart path on the right side and another bogey.
"I've never done that before," Park marveled of the shank.
At No. 5, Park went to work, sticking her tee shot within inches and recording birdie. She also birdied Nos. 6 (15-foot putt) and 7 (6-footer).
"I kept my head," she said. "I hoped (No. 5) was the start of the turnaround and after the three birdies in a row, I felt like I was back in the hunt again."
Said Kerr: "She had a horrible start. A lot of players would have given up."
Kerr grinded out six consecutive pars to start and eagled No. 7 with an 18-foot putt from the fringe to move to 10 under.
Webb made the biggest move up the leaderboard in the final round. She birdied three consecutive holes on the back nine.
Ochoa, the tour's top rookie, recorded her best finish. She was at 9 under following her third birdie of the front nine at No. 7. She bogeyed No. 8 and finished with 10 consecutive pars. She lipped out two birdie shots on the back nine.
"I'm a little sad because it was really, really close and this could have been my tournament," Ochoa said. "I had many, many chances on the back nine but they didn't drop in."
Park's chances didn't fall on the front nine, but come the stretch drive, she didn't waste a shot.
"Nobody said it was going to be easy and it wasn't," she said. "If it's meant to be, things will come your way. And that's exactly what happened the last few holes."
THE PARK FILE
* BORN: March 6, 1979, in Seoul, South Korea.
* RESIDENCE: Phoenix.
* YEAR ON TOUR: 4TH.
* CAREER VICTORIES: 4 (2000 Kathy Ireland Greens.com LPGA Classic, 2001 The Office Depot, 2002 CISCO World Ladies Match Play Championship, 2003 Michelob Light Open).