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Korean Chun In-gee wins LPGA major in record-breaking fashion

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Published : 2016-09-19 09:12
Updated : 2016-09-19 09:12

South Korean Chun In-gee captured the final LPGA major of the season in record-breaking fashion on Sunday in France.

Chun, world No. 7, enjoyed a wire-to-wire victory at the Evian Championship at Evian Resorts Golf Club, shooting 21-under for the four rounds to set the 72-hole scoring record at any golf major, men's or women's. After carding a two-under 69 Sunday with three birdies and a bogey, Chun defeated two fellow Koreans, Park Sung-hyun and Ryu So-yeon, by four strokes, and took home a $487,500 winner's check to rise from eight to third on the money list at $1.4 million.

Chun's aggregate score of 263 is also the lowest ever at a major on the LPGA Tour by four strokes.

Chun, 22, also became just the second LPGA player to win her first two titles at major championships, after fellow South Korean Pak Se-ri did so in 1998. Chun claimed the U.S. Women's Open last year as a non-member.

This is Chun's first full LPGA season, and she has also clinched the Rookie of the Year award. She leads the points race with 983 and won't be caught the rest of the year. Chun is the first rookie winner of the 2016 season.

This was Chun's 16th start of the season and her 10th top-10 finish. She is projected to climb to No. 3 in the next world rankings, surpassing Park In-bee, a seven-time major champion, as the highest-ranked Korean.

Chun is the only South Korean to win an LPGA major in 2016.

Before Chun, four different South Koreans had combined for six tour victories this year.

Chun began the day with a four-stroke lead over Park Sung-hyun at 19-under. Chun's total score of 194 broke the 54-hole scoring record at an LPGA major. And Chun already tied the LPGA major championship record in relation to par, shared by five different players.

Chun parred the first two holes and maintained a four-shot lead over Park. Chun then picked up her first birdie of the round at the

par-4 third, reaching 20-under for the championship. Chun's lead grew to five when Park only managed a par on the third hole.

Park birdied fourth to get to 16-under but Chun, after missing the green and managing only a mediocre chip, drained a 12-footer to save par and stay at 20-under.

Chun had pars over the next three holes, and then picked up her second birdie at the par-3 eighth to move to 21-under. Park's bogey at the same hole dropped her to a three-way tie for second at 15-under.

Feng Shanshan of China closed her front nine with three straight birdies that got her to 16-under but a double bogey at the

par-4 10th took her down to 14-under.

It was mostly smooth sailing for Chun the rest of the day. She strung together five consecutive pars starting at the ninth, before committing her first bogey of the round at the par-3 14th. She fell back to 20-under but still enjoyed a four-stroke lead over the field.

Park fell to 15-under, five shots behind Chun, but closed to within three of the leader with an eagle at the par-5 15th. Moments later, Chun scored a birdie of her own to get back to 21-under.

Leading by four with three to play, Chun nearly had another birdie at the par-3 16th, where her putt just stopped short of the cup.

After a par at the 17th, Chun found trouble off the tee at the 18th. She reached the green in three and drained the par putt to finish off her historic victory.

Chun said afterward she knew she had a chance to set the scoring record, and the key was to try to savor the moment.

"I knew 19-under tied the record after the third round, and it put a lot of pressure on me," Chun said. "But I tried to think about having a really good experience and I just tried to enjoy it."

She even enjoyed playing in heavy downpours on early holes.

Second and third greens became so soggy that groundskeepers had to sweep off water, and Chun said, "It was my first time playing in so much water on the green. It was really fun."

Asked what her records meant, Chun said with a smile, "I don't know, because I still feel like I am dreaming now."

South Koreans dominated the leaderboard. Chun, Park and Ryu occupied the top three spots. Kim Sei-young, the reigning Rookie of the Year, had the low round of the day at six-under 65 to finish alone in fifth place at 14-under. She was followed by Kim In-kyung at 12-under. (Yonhap)