Smart money's on winner Park

Smart money's on winner Park
HSBC Women's Champions winner Park In Bee was so consistent that she played four rounds without recording a bogey.

Having spent her teenage years growing up in Las Vegas, Park In Bee knows a good bet when she hears one.

The wager with her father ahead of the HSBC Women's Champions was simple: Win US$500 (S$689) for a birdie or lose double that for a bogey.

Not only did the South Korean, who closed with a two-under 70 to outlast her rivals, collect the US$210,000 winner's cheque at the US$1.4 million (S$1.9 million) event yesterday, she also had the senior Park in her pocket.

The world No. 2, dressed in white from shoes to hat, had an equally pristine scorecard with no dropped shots through four rounds at the Sentosa Golf Club to finish on 15-under 273, two clear of top-ranked Lydia Ko.

Asked when she would be collecting the additional windfall from her dad, Park, 26, laughed: "I don't think he'll pay me today. He ran out of money."

Still, she had plenty to cheer. This was her 13th LPGA Tour title - second among Koreans only to legend Pak Se Ri - and pushed her career earnings past the US$10 million mark.

The wire-to-wire triumph was achieved through crushing consistency. Park watched as her flightmates and closet challengers - Ko and world No. 3 Stacy Lewis - sent their balls into trees, bunkers and ponds while she found green after green on the taxing Serapong Course.

Said Park, a five-time Major winner: "My tee-to-green today was perfect, 10 out of 10. I don't think anyone else played a better long game than me this week."

The heat was not the only thing that made Lewis' face red as the 2013 winner was outfoxed by the course and outplayed by Park.

She started the day two shots behind her long-time rival and by the end, the difference was four. She signed for a 72 and finished third on 277.

"Even par usually doesn't cut it," was the stewing Texan's brief but comprehensive summation of her efforts.

Ko, who was chasing her third straight victory, called it a "phenomenal" display from Park.

The 17-year-old, in a red shirt as if to echo Tiger Woods, looked menacing with back-to-back birdies on the fourth and fifth holes to draw level with Park. But her momentum was halted by three bogeys in a five-hole stretch starting from the 162m par-three eighth.

The kid who could not miss did exactly that, three-putting twice. A birdie on the 18th at least brought a smile to her face and narrowed the final deficit though, in reality, Ko was well-beaten.

She said: "In Bee was so consistent and I just hit a couple of loose shots and missed some short putts. You just lose shots here in the blink of an eye."

Singapore's representative Koh Sock Hwee (75), the only amateur in the 63-woman field, was last but her 19-over 307 total was the best performance by a local since the inaugural edition in 2008.

The previous time Park, Ko and Lewis finished in the top-three positions was the Oct 30 to Nov 2 LPGA Taiwan Championship, with Park emerging victorious that Sunday as well.

This may have been just the fifth stop of a 34-event calendar but the repercussions could be significant as Park attempts to wrest back the No. 1 ranking, which she lost to Ko last month.

Having spotted the Kiwi's tell, Park said: "I thought Lydia doesn't make any mistakes but I definitely saw her make a couple today so actually she's human and that gives me a little bit of motivation to catch her."

She added with a chuckle: "I just can't believe that I'm playing with somebody who can't even drink."

Park, last seen with a five-litre bottle of red wine from one of the tournament's sponsors, can. And she can certainly gamble too.


This article was first published on March 9, 2015.
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