LANCASTER, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Young South Korean Chun In-gee showed championship maturity on Sunday as she won the U.S. Women’s Open in a thrilling finish at Lancaster Country Club on Sunday for her first major title.
The 20-year-old Chun, a seven-times career winner on the LPGA of Korea Tour playing her first U.S. Open, shot a brilliant four-under-par 66 in the final round for an eight-under total and a one-stroke victory over compatriot Amy Yang (71).
Chun’s 272 total in this 70th U.S. Open matched the lowest winning score, previously registered by Annika Sorenstam in 2006 and Juli Inkster in 1999. It was her fourth win of the year including three on the Korean tour and once on Japan’s tour.
“This year I played four tournaments on the LPGA and I have great experience in those tournaments,” she told reporters through an interpreter with the gleaming silver Open trophy by her side.
“And from all those four wins this year, I got a lot of confidence and that is why I could enjoy every moment.”
World number one Park In-bee of South Korea (67) tied for third at five under par with Stacy Lewis (70) on a steamy day on the hilly course in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Amish country.
Chun began the round four shots behind Yang, but the leader faltered on the back nine and by the 14th hole there was a three-way tie for the lead at six under par with world number three Lewis joining Chun and Yang.
Chun seized the lead with a nine-foot birdie putt at the 15th hole and the young Korean added birdies on the next two holes to reach nine-under for the tournament.
Lewis fell out after a double-bogey at the par-four 15th where she found the water in front of the green.
But Yang, who posted back-to-back bogeys at 14 and 15, eagled the driveable par-four 16th and birdied 17 to move within one stroke as the championship came down to the 72nd hole.
Chun opened the door a crack by hitting her tee shot into deep rough. After punching out, she pitched on to the green but missed a curling 12-foot par putt and made bogey.
Yang needed par to force a three-hole playoff, but she also found the left rough off the tee, punched out and slid her 10-foot par putt by the cup on the left side.
While it was a thrill of a lifetime for Chung, it was another heartbreaker for Yang.
She played in the final Open group in 2010, eventually finishing tied for fifth. Last year, she was paired with winner Michelle Wie but shot 74 and tied for fourth. Yang was also the U.S. Open runner-up in 2012.
“I learned another great lesson here and it’s going to make me a better player,” said the gracious Yang, who added: “She’s a great player.”
Editing by Gene Cherry