Park beats stiff competition to the title
Inbee Park closed with three straight birdies for a final round of 66 to fend off a packed leader board and win the 2012 Evian Masters presented by Société Générale on a glorious and historic final day at the Evian Royal Resort.
The 24-year-old South Korean closed on 17 under par for a two stroke victory over Australian Karrie Webb and Stacy Lewis of the United States, earning a first prize cheque of $487,500, or €397,068.75.
Park perfected her putting on the Evian Masters Golf Course as it hosted the event for the last time before its redevelopment in preparation for becoming a major championship on the LPGA Tour in 2013. The event has been a major on the Ladies European Tour since 1998.
Having struggled with the greens in her previous five appearances at the tournament, Park explained that the faster pace suited her putting style.
“I really had tough time last five years putting over here and didn't play good over here. I was not really confident with the greens. This year I came and the greens were a lot quicker than last five years. I like the fast greens, so I think that really suited me as well,” said Park, whose only other victory on the LPGA Tour was the US Women’s Open in 2008 when she was the youngest ever winner of the title, aged 19.
She was filled with pride as a French sky diver delivered the Korean flag to the 18th green during the prize giving and said: “I feel really special. In the Olympics when I was watching all the athletes have their flags on when they had a medal, I wanted to do that also. I did it today, so I'm very happy.”
Park had started the final round tied for the lead with Lewis and made a shaky start with a bogey on the third hole, but had emerged a stroke clear of the American by the turn after firing three birdies at the fifth, seventh and ninth.
She picked up another shot at the 10th to move two clear of Webb and Lewis at 14 under, but promptly dropped a stroke at the 11th.
The 2007 Evian Masters champion Natalie Gulbis made three straight birdies from the 11th to join Park at 13 under. The pair was joined by Webb, who birdied the 12th and then chipped in from the left side of the 13th green for birdie, but Park then edged clear again with a birdie on 13.
Park picked up the pace with a trio of birdies to finish, rolling in putts from 10, three and 25 feet respectively, before being sprayed in champagne on the 18th green by her fellow Korean competitors, including Se Ri Pak, Na Yeon Choi and the equal fourth ranked Korean amateur, Hyo-Joo Kim.
Lewis, who led or co-led after each of the first three rounds, struggled with her putting and later revealed that her driver was damaged. She said: “The face just cracked. It just happens over time. I just wanted to make sure I could continue using it. Obviously it wasn’t flying quite like it should, but close enough. As long as I didn’t slam it and break it, I could continue using it.”
Lewis made a birdie at the sixth but then her momentum stalled. After a run of seven straight pars, she made a bogey on the 14th to drop back to 11 under par, three strokes behind the leader. She then made a birdie, birdie, par, eagle to finish for a final round of 68 to get into a share of second, but it was too little, too late.
Lewis said: “I just couldn’t really get anything going and then finally at the end, to make some birdies. And then, you know, kind of the way the day was going to make the putt and I did. So it’s a nice way to finish. I’ll keep knocking on the door here and get it some time.”
Webb, the 2006 champion, had the opportunity to win the Evian Masters for a second time but fell just short with a 67, containing one dropped shot and six birdies.
“I shot 67 today, so I can't really complain. I think Inbee shot 66. She played really, really well. Obviously you want to win, but just to be in contention and perform well under pressure, just to feel what it's like to be in contention, is good. I gave myself the chance,” Webb said.
Feng fancied her chances after she holed a bunker shot from the back of the 18th green for eagle to set the target at 14 under and although it wasn’t enough to build on her recent win at the LPGA Championship, she was consoled by a season-best round of 66.
Feng said: “I hoped for a top 10. This morning I was thinking in my head, Stacy shot 63. I was like, That's a good round. I thought maybe my best round of the this year was five‑under. I asked me caddie, ‘Do you think it's 5‑under?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Not six?’ He said, ‘Not yet.’ Then actually today I shot 6‑under, so it's my best round of the year.”
The 17-year-old Kim marked herself out as a future superstar with her terrific performance, carding a final round of 68 to end in a share of fourth at 14 under alongside Gulbis and Feng.
Due to her amateur status, she won’t earn a penny through her Evian performance, although Gulbis and Feng each took home €123,504, however with several large companies fighting to sponsor her, she is likely to take home more when she turns professional in October this year.
Through a translator, Kim said: “I am satisfied, almost, 70 per cent. I wasn’t thinking of winning really, but it was always in my mind.”
Her caddie for the week, Gordon Rowan, who is Lucie André’s regular bagman on the Ladies European Tour, commented: “She’s so impressive; so calm and just has one focus in mind: winning. You can see it’s to win and it’s been a privilege to be a part of that because she will be a big star.”
European Solheim Cup player Anna Nordqvist ended in outright seventh at 12 under after a final round of 68, with Se Ri Pak a stroke further behind in eighth.
Beatriz Recari, Ilhee Lee and Paula Creamer shared ninth place on 10 under, with Italian Giulia Sergas, Frenchwoman Karine Icher, Japan’s Momoko Ueda and American Cristie Kerr a shot back in a tie for 12th place.
Spain’s Azahara Munoz, Australian Lindsey Wright, and South African Lee-Anne Pace were in a group at eight under in a share of 16th.
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