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Park's playoff birdie earns NW Arkansas victory

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 23, 2013 at 8:01 pm •  Published: June 23, 2013
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ROGERS, Ark. (AP) — Inbee Park took some time off for rest and relaxation last week following her win at the LPGA Championship.

The world No. 1 looked every bit at ease on her way to a second straight win — her fifth of the year — on Sunday at the LPGA NW Arkansas Championship.

Park sank a 4-foot birdie on the first playoff hole against So Yeon Ryu , capping her final-round rally and once again reminding the golf world who is clearly in control of the LPGA Tour this year.

Sunday's win was Park's second straight in a playoff, following her final-day 39-hole effort at the PGA Championship. It came after she began the day two shots back of a group of four leaders, each who fell by the wayside as the South Korean took control at Pinnacle Country Club on her way to her seventh win in her last 23 starts.

That kind of success that has led to Park's meteoric rise from 26th in the world rankings a year ago to the unquestioned top player leading into next week's U.S. Open.

"I've won a lot of times this year, but I still feel the pressure coming into the final round every time," Park said. "I definitely felt a lot of pressure in the playoff. I think that's going to happen no matter how many times I win.

"It gets more exciting and more exciting, that's for sure."

After opening with a 2-under 69 on Friday, Park vaulted to the top of the leaderboard with three straight birdies on the front nine on Sunday. She dropped a shot with a bogey on the par-3 11th before birdies on 14 and 18 sent her to the playoff.

Park and Ryu finished the tournament tied at 12 under, one shot ahead of Mika Miyazato. It's the second straight year Miyazato has finished as the runner-up.

Amateur Lydia Ko, I.K. Kim and local favorite and world No. 2 Stacy Lewis, who played at nearby University of Arkansas, each finished two shots back.

After Park sank an 8-foot birdie putt on her final hole of regulation to reach 12 under, Ryu followed with a birdie of her own on the par-5 18th to match her fellow South Korean, good friend and practice partner.

Ryu, however, knew early on Sunday that she faced a difficult task against the hottest player on the LPGA Tour.

"I think everybody's scared of Inbee because she's playing super well (the) last 12 months, even more, like 14 months," Ryu said. "... So, if her name is top on the leaderboard, she makes everybody really nervous."

In the playoff, which took place on No. 18, Park appeared calm throughout — finding the fairway off the tee and nearly reaching the green in two before chipping her third shot within 4 feet.

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