BEDMINSTER, N.J. — At the end of the four days, which were filled with rumors of President Trump’s arrival, reactions to his presence, buckets of rain and pockets of mouth-drying humidity, there was Sung Hyun Park standing just below the green at the 18th hole.
Park, who took all day Sunday to make a methodical climb up the leader board, held a two-stroke lead and now had to avoid a major collapse. Her approach shot on the par-5 18th left her off the green and down a small slope, in the shadow of a hulking television tower. But her chip shot rolled just past the hole — leaving her smiling casually at a loudly cheering crowd — and the ensuing par putt sealed a U.S. Women’s Open championship for the 23-year-old from South Korea.
The major, held at Trump National Golf Club, finished with eight South Korean players in the top 10. The two who rounded out that group were Spain’s Carlota Ciganda and China’s Shanshan Feng, who entered the final round as the leader and finished tied for fifth place. The top American finisher was New Jersey native Marina Alex at 4 under. Park, who finished tied for third at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open, took home $900,000 of a $5 million purse.
She shot a 1-over-par 73 on Thursday, 2-under 70 on Friday, 5-under 67 on Saturday and 5-under 67 again on Sunday, good for 11 under across four rounds, to capture her first LPGA Tour win.
“To be honest with you, I still cannot believe that it is actually happening,” Park said through a translator after accepting the trophy. “It’s almost feel like I’m floating on a cloud in the sky. Of course, I did have many winnings in other tournaments, but winning here at U.S. Open means so much more, and for that I am grateful and extremely happy.”
The week was full of distractions on and off the golf course.
A potential visit from Trump, who frequents his Bedminster club as a summer getaway spot, was first indicated Monday and discussed until he arrived from Paris on Friday. Trump spent most of Friday, Saturday and Sunday watching the tournament from an elevated, enclosed viewing area between the 15th-hole green and 16th-hole tee.
That created a steady hum of noise from people who hung around that area or stopped while passing through it. Fans and supporters, on the ground and on the balcony of the neighboring clubhouse, snapped iPhone photos and begged Trump to return their waves. On Sunday, small groups of silent protesters, rallying in opposition to the U.S. Golf Association holding the event at a Trump-owned course, joined the crowd.
Inside the ropes, players battled puzzling greens and moody weather. Thursday was dampened by sporadic showers. Friday was soaked by driving rain. Saturday brought the sun, and Sunday eventually brought a winner.
“As compared to last year, I could say that I played probably a little bit more relaxed,” said Park, who shot 4 over across the final two days of last year’s U.S. Women’s Open to slip into third place. “. . . But the experience was definitely worth it because based on that good experience that I had last year, I think I was able to garner the championship this year.”
The final round started with Feng and 17-year-old South Korean amateur Hye-Jin Choi jostling for the lead. Choi, who eventually finished in second, recorded the lowest amateur score (9 under at 279) in U.S. Women’s Open history. She trailed Feng by one at 8 under at the start of Sunday, and then Choi slowly pulled ahead and carried a two-stroke lead onto the back nine.
That is when Park made her move, birdieing the 12th and 15th holes to join Choi atop the leader board. They were tied at 10 under when Choi leaned over the tee at the 16th hole, but her drive found the water, and the amateur’s chances quickly dissipated.
Shortly after the crowd at No. 16 sighed at Choi’s ball sinking into the water, a bigger crowd let out a roar at the 17th-hole green. Park had just sunk a six-foot birdie putt, her sixth of the round, to push her score to 11 under and her lead to two strokes.
“But I knew that, you know, on the last hole, I mean, when [Park] made the putt and people went like crazy,” said Feng, who led after the first, second and third rounds before stumbling Sunday. “Oh, [Park] must be winning.”
Feng triple-bogeyed 18 to fade down the leader board. Choi birdied the final hole, but when all the pars and bogeys and whispers and shouts of “Donald Trump!” were added up, Park’s four-round score was lower than everybody else’s.
After she snaked through a sea of fans above the 18th green, she walked by Trump’s viewing area and looked up to see the president approaching the front window. Trump, wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat, excitedly clapped and raised two thumbs in her direction. Park smiled and waved, then went to sign her scorecard and, with 72 holes behind her, finalize the win.