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Tuesday September 18, 2012

Jiyai overcomes weather, marathon final day and rivals to bag title

HOYLAKE (United Kingdom): South Korea’s Shin Jiyai overcame atrocious weather and survived a marathon 36-hole final day to claim a second Women’s British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club by nine shots on Sunday.

With rounds of 71 and 73, the 2008 champion finished on nine-under par and won the final major of the season by an outstanding margin from South Korea’s Park Inbee.

It was the biggest winning margin since the Championship became a major in 2001.

Inbee, the 2008 US Women’s Open Champion, birdied the last for a closing 76 and second place, with American Paula Creamer, who closed birdie, eagle, par, birdie, taking third on one over par after a 72.

Finishing in near darkness, the victory and the US$266,000 cheque completed a remarkably impressive week for 24-year-old Jiyai, who has now won 10 times on the LPGA Tour.

Last Monday, she had needed nine extra holes to beat Creamer in a play-off for the Kingsmill Championship on the LPGA Tour.

“That was a long, long day and very tough,” said the new champion. “I have never played in such bad weather, but I managed to stay focused and now I’m just so excited.

“Winning at Sunningdale four years ago was my fist big win and changed my life. Now I have even more great British Open memories.”

Friday’s play had been wiped out due to severe winds and the weather again caused havoc on a day of catch-up.

There was even an eight-minute break in the second round when the gusting wind and torrential rain made it impossible to hit shots.

Jiyai, who shot a course record 64 in Saturday’s second round, added a 71 in the third and her lead was reduced to three by Karrie Webb, the three-time former champion charging into contention with a 68.

But as conditions deteriorated so did the golf and Webb’s hopes of an eighth major title began to slip out of her grasp with a double-bogey, bogey, bogey start.

Jiyai also hit trouble at the start of the final round with a three-putt, triple-bogey seven.

But the 24-year-old bounced back with a 25-foot birdie at the short sixth and another from 18 feet at the seventh.

Seven ahead at that stage, she was never troubled by anything other than the weather.

While Webb stumbled to an 82 and fell back into a share of fifth on three over, Creamer finished birdie, eagle, par, birdie for a 72.

Lydia Ko, the 15-year-old New Zealander who became the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour at last month’s Canadian Open, took the amateur prize, the Smyth Salver.

The teenager shot 72 and 78 to finish in the top 20 on nine over par, two ahead of English amateur, Holly Clyburn.

Jiyai’s victory completed an Asian clean-sweep of this year’s four women majors.

Koreans Yoo Sun-young and Choi Na-yeon won the Kraft Nabisco Championship and US Women’s Open respectively, while Feng Shanshan became the first Chinese player to win one of the big four at the LPGA Championship. — AFP

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