Salas takes advantage of Park’s mistake to grab LPGA lead

Park erased a two-shot deficit over the final four holes. and finished with a 4-under 68 to match Salas at.

After finishing, Park was whisked away to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's finish line, where she celebrated by kissing the bricks and taking the traditional sip of milk - though she declined to take the milk bath as the event's inaugural victor, Lexi Thompson, did a year ago.

Then the tournament that had been full of low scores and light on drama suddenly switched.

Salas appeared to be in control until hitting tee shots into the rough on the final two holes.

When the South Korean mishit her approach shot into the water on the par-4 16th, Salas capitalized quickly.

"I have been striking the ball really well, and I just had to stay patient", Salas said.

Park's putt, meanwhile, dropped cleanly in the middle of the cup. "All I could ask for was an opportunity".

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Salas' fifth career runner-up finish might have been the most frustrating.

"I was not nervous at all", Park said. "I just really felt comfortable". This year, she has three more sub-par rounds, including a course record-tying 62 on Thursday, and has been atop the leader board each of the first three days.

Sung Hyun Park punched the air with her right fist as her face broke out into a sparkling smile. "But at the same time, it takes a lot of strength to acknowledge that you need that kind of break and just take time for yourself, especially when you're in the spotlight like this".

She opened with five straight birdies and shot 8-under 28 on the front nine.

She was two shots clear of Park and South Korean Amy Yang, with defending champion Lexi Thompson alone in fourth a further three strokes back.

Last season Park tied So Yeon Ryu for Rolex Player of the Year honors, becoming the first player to win both Rookie of the Year and POY honors since Nancy Lopez in 1978. "I'm not happy with how I played the back nine but at least I got a birdie to close", said Hataoka, who rolled in a three-foot putt on 18 to finish on a high.

"My goal was to win three times this year", Park said.

  • Lawrence Cooper