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(LEAD) S. Korean Ryu So-yeon captures 2nd career LPGA major

All Headlines 12:53 April 03, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS details, comments, photo)

SEOUL, April 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korean golfer Ryu So-yeon has captured her second career LPGA major championship.

Ryu defeated Lexi Thompson with a birdie on the first playoff hole to win the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club's Dinah Shore Tournament Course in Rancho Mirage, California, on Sunday (local time).

This was Ryu's fourth LPGA victory and her second major following the 2011 U.S. Women's Open title. She also took home the US$405,000 first-place check.

Ryu's last tour win had come in August 2014 at the Canadian Pacific Women's Open.

Ryu began the final day one stroke behind the leader Suzann Pettersen at 10-under and put together a bogey-free round of four-under 68 on Sunday, closing out her day with a birdie to finish the regulation at 14-under 274. It was Ryu's fourth consecutive round in the 60s.

Ryu moved up a spot to No. 2 in the latest world rankings, behind only Lydia Ko. Ryu became the fifth different South Korean winner in seven events on the LPGA Tour this season.

In this Associated Press photo, Ryu So-yeon of South Korea celebrates her victory at the ANA Inspiration tournament on the LPGA Tour with her caddie Tom Watson in Rancho Mirage, California, on April 2, 2017. (Yonhap)

The 26-year-old had been the tour's best player without a win in 2017. She came into ANA Inspiration as the money leader with US$387,166 and the scoring leader at 67.938 strokes per round. She didn't miss a top 10 in her four previous starts this season.

The South Korean also caught a break during the final round, when Thompson, leading by three with six holes to play, was assessed a four-stroke penalty for making an incorrect ball placement the previous round.

A television viewer alerted officials that Thompson marked her ball and then put it back in an improper place before her putt on the 17th green in the third round. The tour only decided on the penalty during the final round, penalizing Thompson for two strokes for an incorrect placement and two more for an incorrect scorecard.

Thompson regrouped to make a birdie at the 13th to join Ryu, Minjee Lee and Pettersen at the top of the leaderboard. Thompson then traded a birdie at the 15th with a bogey at the 16th.

She stared down an eagle putt at the par-five 18th that would have clinched the title but left her attempt just inches short to set up a playoff with Ryu.

They went back to the 497-yard 18th, and it was Ryu who rose to the occasion by sinking a nervy birdie putt.

In her post-championship TV interview, Ryu said she never expected Thompson to be assessed the penalty, but she tried to stay focused on her own play.

"We always work hard to bring our 'A-game,' and it hurts me as well," Ryu said of Thompson's plight, saying it was "a very unfortunate situation."

"It's a weird feeling, but I am proud of myself. I am really appreciative of everything right now," Ryu added."

Ryu said she knew Thompson would get a lot of backing from the partisan American crowds, but she herself tried to feed off the Korean fans in the stands and also those watching on TV back home.

"I didn't even check the leaderboard, but I knew Lexi was playing well," Ryu said. "I thought I was well behind. But I just wanted to play my game and have a strong finish."

In this Associated Press photo, Ryu So-yeon of South Korea watches her putt during the final round of the ANA Inspiration tournament on the LPGA Tour in Rancho Mirage, California, on April 2, 2017. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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