Tournaments are very often won by a player who grinds out a score in challenging conditions and does just enough to gain separation from the chasing pack. Occasionally a tournament is won in peerless style as the triumphant player outclasses her closest challengers with a performance that can truly be savored.
The latter is what happened on a scorching Sunday afternoon in Singapore where Sung Hyun Park clinched her sixth career victory on the LPGA Tour by two shots at the HSBC Women’s World Championship. Four off the pace heading into the final round, Park closed with a brilliant eight-under-par 64 - the lowest score of the week by two strokes and a performance she rates among her very best.
"To be honest, I think it is in the top three rounds of my career because overall all my shots were executed just as I planned," Park told LPGA.com with a smile. "I was very satisfied with my play."
Park's experienced caddie, David Jones, concurred.
"It's definitely one of the best rounds I have seen from her," Jones told LPGA.com after Park had birdied four of the last nine holes to put the title beyond doubt. "I am trying to think ... her final-round 67 at the 2017 U.S. Women's Open, that would have been the one that was just flawless."
Park carded consecutive five-under 67s over the weekend at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster to claim her first major title at the 2017 U.S. Women's Open, a performance that thrust her into the spotlight as a player of rare talent. Five LPGA Tour wins later, she certainly reminded golf fans how good she can be with a stellar display in firm and fast conditions on Sentosa Golf Club's New Tanjong Course.
"We made just one bogey out there in the final round, and that was because we went over the back at eight and we took on a bit of a greedy chip, and we could have baled out," said Jones. "Other than that unforced error on eight, where we just got greedy and then had three putts, everything was flawless. We didn't look like we would ever be in trouble. It was just very simple, it really was."
THE COMPLETE PACKAGE
Blessed with raw power off the tee, precise ball-striking and a short game to envy, Park is the complete package.
"Her ball-striking is head and shoulders above lots of people. She's long and she's straight," said Jones. "If we had a driving stat right now for strokes gained off the tee, hands down we would be No. 1, both last week in Thailand and again in Singapore. She hits her irons good and high, and she's a good putter. So when you add all those things together, there's not many weaknesses in her game."
Fans watching on site at Sentosa Golf Club on Sunday would have been mainly struck by Park’s red-hot start - five birdies in the first seven holes – and then her run of four more after the turn to close the door on her closest challengers.
For Jones, there were two pivotal moments that underpinned Park’s path to the HSBC Women’s World Championship title – one occurring during Saturday’s third round and the other on Sunday.
On Saturday, Park somehow avoided a big number at the par-five eighth after her second shot ended up in tangly Wedelia grass short and left of the green. She and Jones were very fortunate to find her ball, doing so with just 10 seconds to spare, and from there she proceeded to execute a remarkable recovery shot before chipping up close to the pin and sinking the par putt.
"Her ball was actually sitting up off the ground in there, but it was really tangly in the back of it and that was my biggest concern, that the club would get stuck," said Jones. "And then my other concern was that she was going to rocket this thing out the other side so we just had to be careful where we aimed. We definitely caught a break there, getting it out of the hazard from no idea how, and then getting up and down."
The other key moment came on Sunday at the picturesque par-three fourth where Park's tee shot came agonizingly close to finding the water short and right of the green.
"The wind caught it and knocked it out of the sky quickly and we just got over that hazard by a foot," said Jones. "And then we chip it up stone dead and we take the par and go off and running. But that was the one moment on Sunday when I thought that's just the little break you might be needing coming down because we had birdied the first three holes and now we could have moved right back into the pack quickly. That could have changed things right there.”
Even the best of players needs a fortunate break here or there. Park enjoyed two slices of luck over the weekend at Sentosa before the brilliant quality of her play then propelled her to a sixth LPGA Tour win in spectacular style.