PITTSFORD – The LPGA Tour just wasn’t ready to say goodbye to suburban Rochester.
The Wegmans LPGA Championship needed a sudden-death playoff Sunday evening at Monroe Golf Club, with Inbee Park successfully defending her title with a par on the first extra hole to defeat Brittany Lincicome.
After 38 years, it was an ending that befit Rochester, which has rightfully earned its reputation as one of the Tour’s most successful host cities. Next year’s tournament will shift downstate to Westchester Country Club and be renamed the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
“It’s been 38 years in Rochester that we’ve been playing, and so many people have so many great memories,” Park said. “I have great memories, and being able to be a part of history is such a special feeling.”
Playing the par-4 18th hole in the playoff, both Park and Lincicome found the fairway with their drives. Park, though, was some 40 yards back, so she played first. Her approach shot ran right past the pin and trickled into the rough behind the green.
Lincicome hit a 7-iron from 164 yards out, but pulled it left onto the fringe – almost the exact spot she played from during regulation. Her chip shot ran 6 feet past the hole, while Park came up 3 feet short on her chip. When Lincicome missed her par putt, the stage was set for Park to repeat as champion. If ever the age-old adage of “drive for show, putt for dough” was true, it was Sunday.
“I didn’t feel that nervous at all today when I was playing the final round, but once I got to the tee on the playoff hole, I just felt the nerves right away,” she said. “It was like a replay of last year. Experience definitely helped me out and I think I was able to stay calm.”
In 2013, Park defeated Catriona Matthew in a playoff at Locust Hill Country Club. The 26-year-old South Korean now has won five career majors, including four in the past two years.
“Being able to put my name on this trophy twice and being able to do it here in Rochester is such a great honor,” she said. “I played good today, especially coming in, No. 17 and 18 – I holed really good putts. That put me in the playoff and gave me an opportunity.”
A birdie on the par-4 17th hole during regulation got Park to within one of Lincicome’s lead. Park missed the green on her approach to the 18th, though, and when her chip shot came up 15 feet short, it appeared Lincicome was on the way to her second major championship.
Park, however, holed that nervy par putt to make Lincicome need a par on No. 18 for the win. She wasn’t up to the task.
After finding the fairway with her drive, Lincicome pulled her approach shot to the left. Before she could play her third shot onto the green, Lincicome had to endure a significant wait as playing partner Suzann Pettersen took a drop before playing her third shot.
“It did take forever, but I think it was actually giving me time to kind of calm down,” Lincicome said. “I had my caddie go get my water and took a couple of sips of that, took some extra practice strokes.”
The time to regroup ultimately didn’t make a difference. Lincicome attempted to putt from the fringe, but came up about 8 feet short. Her attempt at par and a victory in regulation missed to the left side.
“Just need to learn how to control the nerves a little bit more,” she said. “I was really, really nervous coming down the stretch – especially the 18th hole and then the playoff. That putt that I had – the first putt – and then the chip that I had I was shaking like a leaf. It’s hard to do anything when you’re shaking.
“I mean, obviously I’m human and it’s part of life and growing, so hopefully I learn from this and kind of move forward.”
Park shot 2-under 70 in the final round, while Lincicome carded 1-under 71. Park’s win ended a streak of victories in the season’s first three majors by American-born players. She also became just the third LPGA player to repeat as champion in Rochester – joining Patty Sheehan and Nancy Lopez.
“Being able to become a winner, there has to be some luck on your side,” Park said. “I’ve always felt that whenever I was winning, I had a little bit more luck than everybody else did.”
Lydia Ko, the 17-year-old No. 2 player in the world, charged to within one shot of the lead with three birdies on four holes from Nos. 12-15, but closed with consecutive bogeys to finish in third place at 8-under 280.