Putts put Park in winner’s circle

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Putts put Park in winner’s circle

A week after losing the No. 1 ranking, Park In-bee found her putting touch.

Park won the Manulife Financial Classic on Sunday for her first LPGA Tour title in more than 11 months, matching the course record with a 10-under 61 for a three-stroke victory over Cristie Kerr.

``Definitely, the putter is definitely the key,’’ Park said. ``I’ve been hitting the ball consistently all year, it’s just that my putter’s not been wanting to do its job. This week, obviously, it did its job.’’

Park finished at 23-under 261 at Grey Silo for her 10th tour title and first since the U.S. Women’s Open. Last week, Park’s 59-week run at No. 1 ended when Stacy Lewis won in New Jersey to take the top spot.

``I’ve got to say, definitely a little bit of pressure off of me,’’ Park said. ``At the same time, I think I needed a little bit of motivation. I just didn’t have any win after the U.S. Open. I was playing good, but not great. So yeah, I think last week was a very good motivation and inspiration for me. So this week, I thought I needed to step it up a little bit.’’

The 25-year-old Korean player had only one bogey in 72 holes -- on the fourth hole in the first round. On Sunday, she played the front nine in 5-under 31 and added birdies on holes 10, 12, 13, 14 and 18.

``I didn’t really think about the 59,’’ Park said. ``All I thought about was just trying to bring that trophy home. I knew there were a lot of birdies and the way I played today everything seemed like it was trying to go in. Even if I didn’t make it, it was still close. It’s the first time I putted really well in a while, so I was really happy that my putter’s finally back.’’

Park ended a 20-event tour winless streak. Last year, she swept the first three majors and finished the season with six victories. She also won a Ladies European Tour event three months ago in China.

After a week off, the tour will resume play June 19-22 with the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst.

``Obviously, with the U.S. Open in two weeks, I think this is a great confidence boost,’’ Park said. ``I think it’s great timing.’’

Kerr finished with a 63.

``I never looked at the scoreboard until I came off 17, with a reachable par 5 to see where I was,’’ Kerr said. ``I was three back and I was stunned because I was 7 under for the day. You’d think you’d be close. But it was great, a great week. I did great with my focus. I played great. I can’t complain.’’

China’s Shanshan Feng, two strokes ahead of Park and Michelle Wie entering the round, had a 68 to finish third at 18 under.

Lydia Ko and Belen Mozo tied for fourth at 16 under. The 17-year-old Ko closed with a 66, and Mozo shot 65.

Lewis and Wie followed at 15 under. Lewis had a 63, and Wie shot 69.

``I just wanted to play well,’’ said Lewis, the winner last week in New Jersey. ``I’ve kind of had some frustrating rounds all week so I just wanted to put together a good round. Still, even left a few out there today, but it’s just nice to see some putts go in kind of leading into the off week and into the Open.’’

Hee Young Park also shot a 61 last year in her victory at Grey Silo. She tied for 10th Sunday at 13 under, closing with a 68.

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