Colorado Springs: South Korea`s Ryu So-yeon won her first major title by beating compatriot Seo Hee-kyung by three shots in a three-hole playoff for the weather-delayed U.S. Women`s Open on Monday.
The 21-year-old Ryu rolled in a five-foot birdie putt on the 18th green, the third extra hole, to complete her maiden LPGA victory before pumping her right fist in delight.
She was then soaked in champagne by fellow Korean players and former winners Pak Se-ri and Ji Eun-hee after they ran across the green to join her in joyful celebration at The Broadmoor.
"Unbelievable," a beaming Ryu said greenside after going par-birdie-birdie over the 16th, 17th and 18th holes in the playoff.
"I won KLPGA (Korean LPGA) tournaments six times but no majors and now I have won the U.S. Women`s Open. I can`t believe it," she squealed in delight.
The orange-and-white clad Ryu, who plays most of her golf on her home circuit, became the fifth Korean to win the U.S. Women`s Open after her role model Pak (1998), Birdie Kim (2005), Park In-bee (2008) and Ji (2009).
She was especially delighted that Pak and Ji both stayed on at The Broadmoor to watch her secure victory on Monday after the year`s third major had been heavily disrupted by rain, thunder and lightning over the previous four days.
"When I was a youngster, Se-ri was my hero," Ryu said. "Se-ri is (for) all the Korean golf players a hero.
"And Eun-hee, I practice with Eun-hee in Australia for winter training so I am really proud of it because my hero Seri Pak and Uni were fighting for me today so it`s a really big power."
Ryu and Seo finished the regulation 72 holes at three-under 281, Seo having closed with a three-under-par 68 shortly before play was suspended because of darkness on Sunday evening.
Ryu was one stroke behind overnight with three holes to play but she sank a six-foot birdie putt at the par-four last on Monday morning for a 69 to force a playoff with Seo.
She conceded that playing the final three holes twice on Monday morning had given her a welcome bonus.
"Sure, it was really good for me ... with the same green speed," Ryu said. "So it was really a big benefit for me, a huge benefit."
Seo`s title bid effectively ended at the second extra hole, the par-five 17th, where she bogeyed after driving into a bunker to trail Ryu by two strokes.
"Nobody knows what is going to happen next so I was just trying to prepare for today," said Seo, who had led the field by a shot overnight.
"I did my best and Ryu did a great job. I would like to congratulate her."
Seo, who celebrated her 25th birthday on Friday, is an 11-times winner on the KLPGA Tour but, like Ryu, she had been bidding for a maiden LPGA victory at The Broadmoor.
American world number two Cristie Kerr, who won the U.S. Women`s Open in 2007 and the LPGA Championship last year, finished alone in third at one under after closing with a 71.