Planet Golf — 18 March 2018 by GW staff and news services
Park holds off Davis, wins Founders Cup

PHOENIX — Weeks like this at the Founders Cup are why Inbee Park held off retiring and Laura Davies is still competing at age 54.

Park celebrated her 19th LPGA Tour victory and first in a little over a year Sunday at Desert Ridge. Davies tied for second for her best tour finish since winning the last of her 20 titles in 2001.

Park closed with a 5-under 67 in cool, breezy conditions, pulling away with four straight back-nine birdies. The 29-year-old South Korean star finished at 19-under 269, winning a day after revealing she was 50-50 about retiring before returning from a long break.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said. “This week definitely proved to me I can win and contend and play some pain-free golf.”

Davies, three strokes behind Park entering the round after the World Golf Hall of Famers shot matching 63s on Saturday, bogeyed the last for a 69 to finish five strokes back with Ariya Jutanugarn and Marina Alex.

“Now people might stop asking me when I’m going to retire,” Davies said. “I can just say, ‘Well, I finished second last week.’ That’s the good bit. People are off my back now. I can just go and play and see if I can have a few more top-10 finishes this year.”

She missed a chance to shatter the LPGA Tour age record set by Beth Daniel in the 2003 Canadian Women’s Open at 46 years, 8 months, 29 days.

“It would’ve been huge,” Davies said.

She also could have moved within a point of the LPGA Hall of Fame with a win in the event honoring the 13 women who founded the tour.

“I was 4 over after six on the first day, so just to get in this position is amazing,” Davies said.

After following an opening birdie with 10 pars, Park started her birdie run with a 15-footer from the fringe on the par-4 12th. She added a curling 10-foot try on the par-4 13th, a 20-footer on the par-3 14th and got up-and-down from a bunker on the par-5 15th.

“I was getting a little bit frustrated, but I always just try to keep myself calm and just keep telling myself that, ‘It’s going to come. It’s going to come. It’s going to drop at some point,’ ” Park said.

She returned two weeks ago in Singapore for her title defense after not playing since the Women’s British Open in August.

“I felt like I was hitting the ball quite solid, but I didn’t know when the short game and the putting was going to come around,” Park said. “I just felt like that was just really rusty from taking some break from last year.”

Davies rebounded from an opening bogey with a chip-in eagle on the par-5 second. She made 8-foot birdie putts on Nos. 9 and 10 to get to within a stroke of Park before the Olympic champion made her winning run.

Fighting Achilles tendon and calf problems in her left leg, Davies also birdied the par-5 15th. She was trying to win for the fifth time in Phoenix after taking the Moon Valley event from 1994 to 1997.

“I still feel like I can hit the ball as well as most of the really good players out here,” Davies said.

Jutanugarn had a 70 to tie for second for the second straight year. She was paired with Davies.

“My dream come true,” Jutanugarn said. “I love how she plays. She’s like my idol and I had some much fun. I not really concentrate with my score at all. I just have so much fun. Pleasure to play with her.”

Alex closed with a 68 for the best finish of her career. She chipped in for eagle on 15, but bogeyed the 18th to fall into the tie for second.

“I guess when I made the eagle, then I got a little excited,” Alex said. “I missed a ton of birdie opportunities.”

In Gee Chun had a 66 — the best round of the day — to join Megan Khan (68) at 13 under.

Michelle Wie and Jessica Korda struggled on the weekend, each closing with a 72. Korda tied for 26th at 8 under, a stroke ahead of Wie. Korda won three weeks ago in Thailand in her return from jaw surgery, and Wie was coming off a victory in the Singapore event.

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