(2nd LD) (News Focus) S. Korean Chun In-gee completes assault on LPGA record books in France
(ATTN: FIXES details in para 4)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Sept. 18 (Yonhap) -- In claiming the final major of the 2016 LPGA season in France, South Korean golfer Chun In-gee also completed an impressive assault on record books.
Chun captured the Evian Championship at 21-under 263 at Evian Resorts Golf Club, beating two countrywomen, Park Sung-hyun and Ryu So-yeon, by four strokes.
Chun began the day with a four-shot lead over Park at 19-under, and Chun's only serious challenger in the final round was history.
Chun's winning score was the lowest in relation to par at a major championship by either a male or a female player. The previous record on the LPGA Tour had been 19-under par, shared by five different players: Dottie Pepper at the 1999 Kraft Nabisco Championship, Karen Stupples at the 2004 Women's British Open, Cristie Kerr at the 2010 LPGA Championship, Yani Tseng at the 2011 Wegmans LPGA Championship and Park In-bee at the 2015 KPMG Women's PGA Championship.
The men's record is 20-under, set by Jason Day at the 2015 PGA Championship and matched by Henrik Stenson at this year's Open Championship.
Chun actually reached 19-under after just three rounds. By shooting 194 through three days, Chun had broken the 54-hole scoring record at an LPGA major by five shots. Annika Sorenstam had set the previous mark at the 2004 LPGA Championship.
Chun In-gee of South Korea celebrates after winning the Evian Championship on the LPGA Tour in Evian-les-Bains, France, in this Associated Press photo on Sept. 18, 2016. (Yonhap)
At 263 total, Chun also set the 72-hole LPGA major championship record, topping 267 shot by Betsy King at the 1992 LPGA Championship.
The 22-year-old joined Pak Se-ri, a pioneering figure in South Korean women's golf and World Golf Hall of Famer, as the only two players to enjoy the first two LPGA victories at major championships. Pak won the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women's Open in 1998. Chun won the 2015 U.S. Women's Open as a non-member.
Chun is projected to rise from No. 7 to No. 3 in the next world rankings, supplanting Hall of Famer Park In-bee as the top Korean. Chun has also clinched the Rookie of the Year honors, earning 60 points to increase her total to 983, with eight tournaments remaining. Chun is the 10th South Korean to be so honored.
And with US$487,500 for the first-place check, Chun moved up five spots to No. 3 on this year's money list at $1.4 million.
Hours after clinching the historic win, Chun said she was still overwhelmed by it all. Asked what breaking records meant to her, Chun said, "I don't know, because I still feel like I am dreaming now."
Even with a four-shot lead standing on the 18th tee, Chun said she was "so nervous," but she didn't mind playing with butterflies in her stomach.
"Without nerves, I feel bored," Chun said. "I had a lot of pressure on the course, but I enjoyed my game. I tried my best to stick to my game plan."
Chun, who has also won major tournaments on Korean and Japanese tours, has never been a spectacular player but is as steady as they come.
She hit every green and missed just three fairways in the first round at the Evian Championship, while shooting an eight-under 63. Her ball-striking was a bit shakier in the second round, as she hit eight of 13 fairways and missed four greens, but relied on a strong putter to card a 66.
In the third round, she erased a double bogey at the par-5 ninth with a chip-in eagle at the par-5 15th, mixing them with six birdies. She hit 11 fairways and 15 greens, and needed just 27 putts to get around, one fewer than her total from each of the first two rounds.
Chun In-gee of South Korea kisses the winner's trophy after capturing the Evian Championship on the LPGA Tour in Evian-les-Bains, France, in this Associated Press photo on Sept. 18, 2016. (Yonhap)
She also had just 28 putts in the final round on wet greens slowed by heavy downpours in the early part of the day. Statistically, this was Chun's worst ball-striking round, with nine fairways hit and 11 greens reached in regulation, but her short stick came through when Chun needed it the most.
The most important putt came at the par-4 18th. At 21-under, she was already leading the field by four, but she needed to score at least par to set the major championship scoring record.
Chun found trouble off the tee and needed three shots to reach the green. Her approach fell six feet left of the cup, and Chun buried the putt to etch her name into golf history.