EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France — Inbee Park of South Korea ended her four-year wait for a U.S. LPGA Tour title when she hit a 6-under 66 on Sunday to win the Evian Masters for the first time, beating veteran Karrie Webb and overnight co-leader Stacy Lewis by two shots.
It was only Park’s second win on the U.S. LPGA circuit and the first since she became the youngest to win the women’s U.S. Open in 2008, when she was 19.
“It feels great, it was four years ago but it feels longer than that,” the 24-year-old Park said after posting a 17-under 271. “I finished the round with some really strong putting today.”
Lewis, who shared the overnight lead with Park, found form late on but her superb long putt for eagle on the 18th came too late.
“I actually played really good. I had probably four or five putts that I thought I made and just lipped out,” said Lewis, who was runner-up last year to Japan’s Ai Miyazato, also by two shots. “It’s huge for me, because I didn’t play well yesterday, didn’t play my best today, and still I was right there. “
Park nailed birdies on the last three holes amid a late charge from China’s Shanshan Feng, whose round of 66 included an eagle on the 18th.
“After yesterday, a lot of players were in contention so I knew I had to shoot a good score out there,” Park said. “The greens were a lot quicker than the last five years. I like the fast greens, so I think that really suited me as well.”
Feng finished three strokes behind Park, tied for fourth with South Korean amateur Hyo Joo Kim (68) and American Natalie Gulbis (68).
Feng’s shot of the day drew a roar from the grandstand on the 18th when she chipped out of the bunker, the ball looped around in a semi-circle from right to left and then dropped in for an eagle.
“It was a flat lie and I had room to let the ball roll. (But) under pressure I think that’s a very good shot,” Feng said. “It’s my best round of the year.”
The pressure was on Park to respond, and she did, sinking a birdie on hole 16 to move 15-under overall. Her next tee shot was perfect, landing near the 17th flag, and gave her another birdie for a commanding 16-under.
Webb, a seven-time major winner, needed something special on the 18th — but the Australian teed off into the rough and hit her next shot well wide of the green. Still, she narrowly missed out on an improbable eagle before settling for a birdie.
That left Park needing only to make par for victory. She did better than that with her eighth birdie of the day as fellow Koreans ran onto the green to celebrate.
Lewis, who had been seeking her third U.S. LPGA Tour title of the year, was left to rue a poor run of form in the middle of her round — where she went eight holes without a birdie, including a bogey on 14 — before suddenly regaining form with two birdies and an eagle in the last four holes.
Lewis, who tied the course record with 63 on Friday, missed a birdie on the fourth hole as her shot drifted left. After missing a good birdie chance on the fifth, she hunched forward in frustration with hands on her thighs. Finally, she got a birdie on the sixth, with a long putt from the right of the green.
Park birdied the ninth to take the lead at the turn and then moved to 14-under with another birdie on the 10th.
Webb and 2007 Evian winner Gulbis had a chance to make up ground after Park bogeyed the 11th.
“It’s nice to see positive things,” Gulbis said. “Because I had missed three of my last four cuts, and two of those four were in big events.”
Webb, the 2006 champion, chipped out of the green rough to sink a superb birdie on the 13th to pull level with Gulbis and Park at 13-under, with Lewis one shot back and again showing annoyance when her putt for birdie rolled off the lip on hole 12.
“I gave myself the chance,” the 37-year-old Webb said. “Just to be in contention — and perform well under pressure — is good.”
After a bogey on No. 14, Lewis birdied the 15th and 16th for an outside chance but Park remained in control to win the trophy and C397,000 ($487,500) prize money.
This is the last Evian Masters before the event becomes the Evian Championship and the fifth women’s major in September 2013.