With win, Inbee Park moves up to No. 2
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Inbee Park took an entourage along with her on the traditional leap into Poppie's Pond on Sunday.
The 2013 Kraft Nabisco champion brought along something else as well -- an empty bottle that she filled with water from the freshwater pond that for 25 years has drawn tournament winners, their friends and family on a celebratory dunk alongside the 18th green.
"That was for my dad," said Park, who finished at 15 under par, capturing her second major thanks to a typically masterful display of putting for the runaway victory. "He actually bought a ticket to come [from South Korea on Saturday] and was on his way to the airport. I stopped him because if he came, I would want to win so bad, that might be on my mind playing today.
"When I see him next week … I'm going to pour it over him."
The victory shower extends beyond Park's father, however, to her native South Korea, which has produced champions in five of the LPGA's last eight major tournaments, and to the Asian continent, which can claim all eight.
"They're there every week," Park said of fellow South Korean golfers, "and it's good to have a lot of friends together and competing against each other, improving together."
Sunday's victory vaulted Park, 24, from fourth place in the world rankings to second behind American Stacy Lewis, who claimed the top ranking just three weeks ago.
So dominant was Park, who had 20 birdies for the tournament, including the first two holes of her final round, that the LPGA issued an "If she wins … Inbee Park" stat sheet at 3:30 Sunday afternoon, with Park still on the ninth hole.
"This week I don't think I missed many shots," Park said. "But I'm human, and I miss shots too. But this week has been very nearly perfect."
Park has now won four tournaments in her last 16 starts and her second this year. She won the U.S. Women's Open in 2008.
"When she's rolling it," Lewis said, "you're not going to beat her."
The Koreans' dominance in women's golf is not news. Currently, 19 of the top 50 women's golfers in the world are from South Korea. And yet Si Ri Pak, the 35-year-old credited with starting it all and Park's idol growing up, said it should only improve.
"It's getting stronger all the time," said Pak, who finished tied for 19th. "Probably everybody wants to know if we have a strong program, better conditions. Golf is pretty hard to practice and to play. I guess mentally, we're just really strong to hang in there really well with the pressure especially.
"Definitely, I'm very proud. I guess I [showed] everybody dreams come true by opening the door for them. Golf is an individual game, it's pretty hard and you have to fight for yourself, you have to take care of yourself, you're traveling yourself. It's pretty lonely, but they have dreams. They come out here and play together, they're learning and they're winning."
Another rising South Korean, So Yeon Ryu, 22, finished second at 11 under. She is a close friend of Park's and joked about the wagers the two make on the putting green.
"There are a lot of Koreans playing on this tour, so we feel really comfortable because we help each other a lot," Ryu said. "I feel like maybe [if] Inbee can do it, maybe I can do it. So it's kind of really a great goal and a really great role model for me."
Park joked that even in competition, Ryu was rooting her on.
"Yeon is a very consistent player and a very good friend," she said. "She told me this morning, 'I want to see you jumping into the water and I want you to win,' and she was the one chasing me, so that felt very good."
Ryu joined the masses in awe of Park's latest performance.
"She looked like she played another golf course," Ryu said. "This golf course is really hard and before we started the tournament, she really worried about the game because her ball flight is a little low. She said there's not enough speed on the greens. But she hit it so well, I think she was lying to me."
Park, who brought her fiancé along in the victory leap into the pond, clearly has her eye on Lewis and the No. 1 ranking.
"That's the place I've always wanted to go," Park said, "and I only have one more spot to go. That brings a lot of momentum, keeps momentum going for me, especially after this week. I feel a lot of confidence with my swing and with my putting. Everything has been going the right way this season, and it feels good."