Inbee Park carded a bogey-free 5-under, 67 to claim her 19th LPGA Tour victory on Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She finished the week at 19-under, five shots clear of second.
The extended layoff – when she contemplated not returning because she enjoyed her time away – didn’t seem to bother her as she held off several in the chase pack to claim her first win since March of 2017 at the HSBC Women’s Championship.
"It feels great, especially after the long break I didn't know how I'd be able to compete," said Park. "Being able to contend and win is a great feeling. This week definitely proved that I can win again and play pain-free golf."
She went the final 36 holes of the tournament without a bogey and followed up her Saturday 63 with the Sunday 67.
Park made birdie on the first to build a two-shot lead, but then proceeded to make ten straight pars. Laura Davies pulled within a shot, but Park then rattled off birdies on 12, 13, 14 and 15 to leave no doubt.
Park admitted that the time off - forced by injury - came at the perfect time in her career.
"When you play golf nonstop for ten years straight, you kind of want to take time off and think about something else and do something else," said Park in her press conference. "I might have won more tournaments if I didn't take a break, but I don't think I'b be as happy as I am today."
She moves into a tie for 28th on the all-time LPGA wins list and now has a win in six of the last seven seasons. The year she didn't win - 2016 - was the same year she won Olympic Gold in Rio.
Park is projected to jump to fifth on the CME Race to the Globe.
Laura Davies, Marina Alex and Ariya Jutanugarn shared second place at 14-under.
First Top 10 Since 2014 For Laura Davies
Laura Davies, who is in her 32nd year on the LPGA Tour, completed a brilliant showing at the Founders Cup to post her first top 10 since 2014. Her second place finish is her best since the 2007 Honda LPGA Thailand when she also finished in second.
"This is incredible, really," said Davies. "I was 4-over after 6 (holes) and now I've finished tied second. Amazing to come back and accomplish this. I know I've been playing really well and I haven't had the results to reflect that. I'm just delighted the way the week has turned out."
The Dame was magnificent all day. She erased a bogey on one with an eagle on two. She got herself one back of the lead with back-to-back birdies on holes nine and ten.
"Maybe now people will stop asking me when I'm going to retire," joked Davies. "I can just tell them I finished second last week."
How has Davies maintained for so many years?
"I've never beat myself up on the range. I think that really, I'm not being flippant about it, I think I haven't beat balls like some of these girls did for hours on end and that has kept me strong. At 54, I still feel like I can hit the ball as well as most of the really good players out here."
2017 Symetra Tour Grad Makes Clutch Putt on 18 for Top 10
LPGA rookie Erynne Lee stood over an 18-foot putt on 18 with a packed gallery looking on late in the day. Like a seasoned veteran, she put the perfect pace on the downhill putt and it dropped right in.
It cemented the first top 10 of her career. She finished in a tie for seventh.
“It was a really good showing this week, I’m striking it really well and that made it really easy out there,” said Lee. “Every week I have the first tee jitters, but Symetra (Tour) was a huge stepping stone getting more comfortable with coming to LPGA.”
Lee won twice on the Symetra Tour last season and finished sixth on the money list.
This offseason, she changed swing coaches to Chris Mason out of Maderas Golf Club, but the bigger focus has been the mental side.
“I just wanted to have a good overall package coming into my rookie year on the LPGA,” said Lee. “Out here it is all mental. Everyone can play and can score. The mental strength is most important.”
Her father, Brian, who was her caddy for all three of her Symetra Tour wins (one in 2016 season) is still on her bag. While he’s taking the Kia Classic off, she's not letting her 'good luck charm' go anytime soon.
Beatriz Recari Makes Two Eagles Including Hole Out
Beatriz Recari made two eagles in the span of four holes to finish her round at 1-under and 7-under total.
“I have been hitting it so good all week and had a lot of looks, but today they weren’t going in,” said Recari. “I’m proud of myself for staying positive and then it was a major bonus to have the two eagles. I have never had two eagles that close together in my career.”
On the par-5 15th, Recari had 221 yards to the pin and hit a laser 5-wood and her ball hit the flagstick and stopped six inches from the hole. She nearly had an albatross and settled for an eagle.
Then, on the par-4 18th, she holed out from 153 yards for eagle. She landed her 7-iron a bit short of the green and it rolled about 20-feet towards the hole and went in.