BEDMINSTER, N.J. -- All week long, Sung Hyun Park was in the shadows like a lioness stalking her prey. She emerged Sunday night to be crowned the U.S. Women's Open champion.
The 23-year-old South Korean fired a 5-under-par 67 onthe 6,762-yard Old Course at Trump National Golf Club to win the 72nd edition of the oldest major championship in women's golf.
Park completed 72 holes at 11-under 277 for her first win on the LPGA Tour, which she joined this year. She has won 10 events in her homeland
"To be honest with you, I still cannot believe this is happening," Park said through a translator. "I almost feel like I'm floating on a cloud in the sky.
"Of course, I did have many winnings in other tournaments, but winning here at U.S. Open means so much more and for that I am extremely grateful and happy."
Seventeen-year old Hye-Jin Choi of South Korea, who was trying to become the second amateur to win a Women's Open title, finished second after a 1-under 71 for a 9-under 279.
Her total is the lowest 72-hole score by an amateur in championship history.
Choi held the lead alone at one point and also shared the lead. With three holes left, her chance for victory vanished when her tee shot at the par-3 16th found the water.
Mi Jung Hur and 2011 Women's Open champion So Yeon Ryu, both of South Korea, tied for third at 7-under 281 after rounds of 68 and 70, respectively.
Shanshan Feng of China, who led heading into Sunday, remained on top for portions of the final round and was alone in second place, two shots off the pace, coming to the 72nd hole.
Feng watched Park complete her round before finishing with a triple bogey for a 6-under 282, leaving her tied for fifth place with Carlota Cignada of Spain and Jeongeun6 Lee of South Korea.
Park was competing in just her second Women's Open. She held the 36-hole lead last year at CordeValle before finishing tied for third, one shot out of the playoff between Anna Nordqvist of Sweden and American Brittany Lang, the eventual champion.
Park, who has four top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour this year, was seven shots off the pace midway through the championship before a 67 on Saturday moved her into contention. She started the final round three shots off the pace and made the turn after a 34.
A birdie at 12 gave Park a share of the lead along with Choi and Feng. Park and Choi birdied 15, but Park took the lead alone and for good after Choi found the water at 16.
Choi said she wasn't trying to force the issue at that point, but simply wanted to hit a good shot.
"Rather than pushing myself for getting a birdie," she said through a translator, "I was just hoping to get through the hole, maybe with a par, and I was thinking maybe at the last hole that I might play a little aggressively."
Park showed her championship mettle at the 72nd hole. She flew the green with her third shot at the par 5, leaving a long uphill recovery shot with water in play.
From there, she chipped to within three feet and made the putt to save par.
Park prides herself on her ability to maintain her focus in the heat of competition.
"I think one of the most difficult things is to to stay focused and keep that concentration level up," she said, "because I know that once you lose it, your playing is going to go just sideways. So I always try to stray focused myself.
"But I think today my caddie (David Jones) had a great role in helping me stay focused. Because whenever I was slightly shaken, he would put me back by saying small jokes or assuring me or a pep talk."
Feng lost her hold in the lead for the first time when she bogeyed the sixth hole, but she was 1 under for the rest of her round until she misfired at the finish. But she was satisfied with her week's work.
"I look back, I should be happy actually about my result," she said, "because coming into this week I had no expectations at all. Last year, I just made the cut so actually this year is such an improvement."
NOTES: Sung Hyun Park collected a check for $900,000 from a record $5 million purse. She becomes the eighth South Korean player to win a total of nine Women's Opens since 1988. Inbee Park won the Women's Open in 2008 and '13. Seven other players have won one each. ... Marina Alex finished as the low American in the field at 4-under 284. The 27-year-old Alex grew up in Wayne, N.J., less than 40 miles from Trump National. She joined the LPGA Tour in 2014. .... U.S. President Donald Trump attended Sunday's finale. Five protesters (four women, one man) staged a demonstration beneath his box that overlooked the 15th green and 16th tee. They were protesting the USGA's decision not to move the championship from Trump National.