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Choi Captures U.S. Women's Open
Na Yeon Choi took advantage of a six-stroke lead entering the final round. The 24-year-old added a sixth LPGA Tour victory after closing with a 1-over 73 to finish at 7-under 281 at a tough Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., to win the U.S. Women's Open.
After making the turn in even-par 36, Choi made things interesting on the par-5 10th when her drive found a hazard left of the fairway. Forced to return to the tee and re-hit, she ended up carding a triple-bogey eight to shrink her lead to two shots over her nearest pursuer, fellow South Korean Amy Yang.
But Choi proved her resilience with a birdie on the par-4 11th. She added birdies on the 15th and 16th to create some space, and a bogey on the last gave her a 37 on the home half for a four-shot win.
Of her misstep on the 10th, Choi said at greenside, "I tried to forget it and got a really good bounce-back."
Yang closed with a 71 to finish in solo second at 285; she and Choi were the only players in the field to end up under par after 72 holes.
Choi, who earned $585,000, won on the same course that countrywoman Se Ri Pak took her first major 14 years earlier. That victory propelled South Korean women's golf. When Pak, now a member of the LPGA Hall of Fame, played at Blackwolf Run in 1988, there were only three South Koreans in the field. This year there were 28.
"My dream was just to be a professional golfer," added Choi, who became the fifth Korean to win the Open in the last eight years. "I really appreciate Se Ri . . . she's a real legend in Korea."
Pak is pleased with the positive effects her 1998 win has meant to her nation. "It's nice to hear from all those young players in my country," said the 34-year-old, who shot a 1-under 71 to end up in ninth at 4-over 292. "I really am proud to be a part of it. I was a kid watching men's tour and the LPGA events and exactly as Na Yeon said, I dreamed about it. I want to go over there and be the best in the world.
"And I am here and I guess I am the leader and they follow me. So many players reach for those moments of inspiration."
After Choi tapped in on the par-4 18th for her meaningless bogey, several Korean players ran onto the green and sprayed celebratory champagne on the new champion.
Germany's Sandra Gal closed with a 74 to finish at 1-over 289, one stroke ahead of South Korea's Il Hee Lee (70), China's Shanshan Feng (71) and Italy's Giulia Sergas (72).
Paula Creamer, the 2010 Open champion at Oakmont, had another nice Open. The Californian closed with a 74 to end up sharing seventh at 291 with Mika Miyazato of Japan (76).
Pak was joined in ninth by four other players who all shot 75 Sunday: Norway's Suzann Pettersen, South Korea's Inbee Park, and Americans Cristie Kerr and Nicole Castrale.(75).
Kerr was a bit disappointed with her Open - a major title she won in 2007, particularly after being in contention after opening with a promising 69 and 71. "The experience was great," said Kerr, who posted a 77 and the 75 over the weekend. "I played great the first two days and just wasn't consistent enough on the weekend. And it played tougher on the weekend, so I needed my 'A' game coming into the weekend and I had my 'B' game."
Tied for 14th at 293 were Americans Cindy LaCrosse (72), Danielle Kang (74) and Lexi Thompson (78), and defending champion So Yeon Ryu (74) of South Korea.
After a hopeful start with rounds of 74 and 66, Michelle Wie backtracked Saturday and Sunday, shooting 78 and 80 to settle for T-35 at 10-over 298. "It was one of the most frustrating rounds for me," the 22-year-old Hawaiian told reporters. "I hit a lot of missed shots today. Just the long game, didn't feel comfortable for me out there, and I hit every putt really good and every putt looked like they were going to go in which didn't go in.
"It was a very frustrating round overall. But at the same time I still had a lot of fun playing today and it was a great U. S. Open experience, and I'm really looking forward to the next tournament."
Wie finished higher than the top-ranked women's player in the world, Yani Tseng, who closed with two straight 78s to end up T-50 at 14-over 302. "It was like some amateur was playing on the back nine," said the 22-year-old from Taiwan, who posted a whopping 9-over 45 on the home half Sunday after opening with a 3-under 33.
"But I mean these four days I played nine holes good, played good nine holes every day. It was like switch on and off. It was like perfect front nine and back nine was just way off. It was like a totally different person playing golf.
"Even Saturday, too, I had a bad front nine and a good back nine," she added. "So it was like every day I been nine holes perfect. So I just need to figure out just continue to play 18 holes, good holes instead of just nine . . . But I still feel confidence. Still have lots of tournaments left, and I have two weeks off the next two weeks, and hopefully I can come back to play well in the Evian."
The low amateur was Lydia Ko. The 15-year-old from New Zealand shot a 75 Sunday to end up at 12-over 300, one stroke lower than fellow amateur Emma Talley of Princeton, Ky. The future University of Alabama golfer closed with an impressive even-par 72.
For all the scores, visit http://www.uswomensopen.com/scoring2012/dyn/alllb.html.