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No. 1 Park wins No. 5 of 2013

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ROGERS, Ark. -- The hot streak continues for the top-ranked female golfer in the world.

Inbee Park won for the fifth time this LPGA season, holing a four-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to beat practice round playing partner So Yeon Ryu to capture the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship on Sunday at Pinnacle Country Club.

Park, the No. 1 player in the Rolex Women's World Rankings, improved to 2-1 in her career in playoffs, with the other victory coming two weeks ago at the tour's most recent tournament, the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

"It feels great," Park said. "This is one of my favorite stops on the tour and the people are just so nice and the course was in great condition this year. "The greens were holding very pure, so I was able to putt really well on this golf course and play very solid the last three days.

"It was a little tough that I had to be in a playoff with a best friend, but that happens sometimes."

Park trailed four players atop the leaderboard by two shots heading into Sunday's final round, but closed with a 4-under-par 67 to finish even with Ryu, her South Korean compatriot.

Park quickly moved into final-round contention with birdies on the sixth, seventh and eighth holes.

After a bogey at the par-3 11th, Park used a birdie on the par-5 14th to move back to 11-under, then closed out with the birdie at the par-5 18th to finish at 12-under 201.

Park then watched as Ryu, playing one group behind, closed her round with an eight-foot birdie putt to close out a 69 and force the third playoff in NW Arkansas Championship history.

After a near perfect drive on the 18th in the playoff, Park's approach was short and left of the green. But her third shot settled four feet from the hole.

Ryu missed the fairway and was forced to lay up short of the green in the playoff. Her approach sailed over the green and her birdie chip slipped past the hole before Park holed the winning putt.

"I know I tried my best, so it's fine," said Ryu, the No. 5 women's player in the world. "Actually, today the round wasn't really great to me because my distance control was really bad.

"But I felt really great to finish strong on 17 and 18 and also I wanted to chase (Inbee) down. I'm so happy for Inbee that she won the tournament."

Mika Miyazato of Japan, the opening round leader with a 65, finished one shot back after a closing with a 67. Miyazato had to settle for a par on the 18th hole and wasn't able to join the playoff.

Park's five victories this season on the LPGA Tour include wins in the first two majors this season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the LPGA Championship.

She will try for the third straight major victory in the U.S. Women's Open, which starts Thursday at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y.

Park will try to match Babe Zaharias (1950) as the only LPGA player to win the first three majors in a season.

"This week is a good preparation week for me as I go into the U.S. Women's Open," Park said. "I've won the last two weeks and there's a lot of emotions, so I'm just going to try to calm down myself a lot and try to play the course.

"I'm sure the course is going to make me concentrate, so I'm really looking forward to playing there and not to think about any kind of history or trying to break somebody's record."

Stacy Lewis, the local fan favorite who was a four-time all-American at nearby University of Arkansas, entered Sunday tied for the lead with Chie Arimura of Japan, Beatriz Recari of Spain and Ryu.

But Lewis struggled to find her groove and finished at 71 to tie for fourth, while Recari and Arimura both shot 72 and tied for seventh.

"I'm pretty disappointed," Lewis said. "You know, I had one bad swing on No. 7, but really other than that I played pretty solid and I hit so many good shots and so many good putts today.

"I don't really know, going back, what I would do much different."

Amateur Lydia Ko, a 16-year-old from New Zealand who won the 2012 Canadian Open at the age of 15, finished with a 68 and tied four fourth.

NOTES: Inbee Park's victory marked the third time in six years the NW Arkansas Championship has been decided in a playoff. Yani Tseng won the 2011 tournament in a playoff over Amy Yang, and Jiyai Shin defeated Angela Stanford and Sun Young Yoo in a playoff in 2009. ... Park's 54-hole total of 12-under 201 was one shot shy of the tournament record. Tseng won the first of her two NW Arkansas Championship titles with a 13-under total of 200 in 2010. ... Park has five victories and seven top 10 finishes in 12 LPGA events this year. Since the start of the 2012 season, she has recorded seven wins and 19 top 10 finishes in 36 events. ... This marks the sixth consecutive year the NW Arkansas Championship has been won by an Asian-born player. Stacy Lewis won the tournament as an amateur in 2007, but was declared an unofficial winner when the event was cut to 18 holes due to rain.
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