Park In-Bee capped her final round with back-to-back birdies Sunday to win the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, setting up a tantalizing showdown with world No. 1 Lydia Ko in next week’s LPGA Tour Championship.
The 27-year-old South Korean fired a 64 to reach a 18-under 270 total and finish three strokes ahead of playing partner Carlota Ciganda for her fifth title of the year.
Spain’s Ciganda closed with a nine-under 63 while US LPGA Tour rookie-of-the-year Kim Sei-Young (66), who was the other player in the final group, finished third, five strokes behind Park.
“It was close to a perfect day,” Park said. “I didn’t make many mistakes and I was able to focus on my game.”
Park is playing her first event since withdrawing from the Blue Bay tournament on Hainan Island in China earlier this month because of a cyst on her left hand.
Park needed to finish eighth or better at the Club de Golf Mexico course to remain in the Player of the Year chase. She is aiming to take top honours for the LPGA season and to do that she needs to regain the number one ranking from New Zealand’s Ko.
Park also is chasing Ko for the most money won on the Tour this season.
Ko did not play this week. She and Park will square off at the season-ending Tour Championship in Florida, where Ko will be defending her 2014 title.
“It is a big motivation,” Park said of going for the Player-of-the-Year award. “You love to have it when you finish your season but if I don’t get it, it is still a great season as I have two majors.
“This is my ninth year on the tour. I have definitely achieved a lot of things. It has been a thrill.”
Park rolled in a four foot putt on the 72nd hole for the win. Her bogey-free round included eight birdies.
“My putter was really good this week. I made some 30 footers out there,” she said.
Ciganda got off to a hot start with an eagle and four birdies in her first seven holes. Her only blemish on the day was a bogey at the par-three 16th which came as she was trying to chase down Park for the lead.
Like Ciganda, Kim eagled the par-five second hole. She also had three straight birdies around the turn, beginning at the ninth.
Kim was coming off her third win of the season at the Blue Bay event which saw her clinch rookie-of-the-year honours.
South Korea’s Ryu So-Yeon finished solo fourth after shooting a 67 for a 11-under 277 while Japan’s Sakura Yokomine was alone in fifth at nine-under.