Ryu makes 6 straight birdies, wins Farr Classic

SYLVANIA, Ohio — Even though it had only been a little over a year since her victory in the U.S. Women’s Open, So Yeon Ryu was already feeling the pressure to win again.

She lapped the field to end the drought Sunday.

Ryu rode a string of six straight birdies in the middle of her round to a 9-under 62 and a seven-stroke victory in the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic.

“This is just my turning point,” she said. “I want to win again.”

Ryu began the day locked in a four-player logjam — all South Koreans — for first place. She took the lead by herself for the first time with an 8-foot birdie putt at the third hole and gradually stretched her advantage until pulling away with birdies on Nos. 9-14.

“On hole No. 9, I made a really long putt and my confidence level went up,” she said.

Still, a good friend had provided a cautionary tale. Yeon Jae Son, competing for South Korea in rhythmic gymnastics at the London Olympics, was in line to medal heading into the final day of competition. But, she told Ryu by phone, she had gotten ahead of herself and ended up missing out on a trip to the podium.

Ryu took that to heart on the course.

“It made me nervous because I really wanted to win. … She helped a lot,” Ryu said about the message imparted by her friend. “I didn’t want to be thinking of winning. I was just thinking about my score.”

Ryu ended up at 20-under 264 thanks to the lowest final round by a Farr winner — by three strokes.

On the third hole, she hit her approach from the light rough to 8 feet over the flag and made the birdie putt to break free of the pack.

She added a 12-footer for birdie at the par-4 fifth to double her lead.

The lead could have grown even more; Ryu missed birdie putts of 8, 6 and 10 feet at Nos. 4, 6 and 7.

Then, after I.K. Kim, who shot a 71 and ended up tied for fifth with Jennie Lee (67) at 11 under, narrowed her lead to a shot, Ryu rolled in a 30-footer from the front of the green at the ninth hole.

From there she took control. None of her next five birdies were outside 6 feet as she dialed in her irons.

“My ball-striking was great,” she said.

For good measure, she birdied the last hole — a kick-in from 2 feet — to cap her round.

Her 62 matched the fourth-best round in tournament history. Her 20-under total has been surpassed only by five-time Farr winner Se Ri Pak, considered the matriarch for a generation of young South Korean players on the LPGA Tour.

Ryu had picked up the game in the second grade as part of her school’s extracurricular activities. She’s also a gifted pianist.

Not a member of the LPGA Tour at the time, she beat fellow countrywoman Hee Kyung Seo — her playing partner Sunday — to win the 2011 Open in a three-hole playoff.

This season, Ryu has eight top 10s including a tie for second in Australia.

Angela Stanford made a long birdie putt on the final hole for 66 to finish second at 13-under 271.

As Ryu pulled away, she couldn’t do much but watch.

“When I looked at the leaderboard on 14, she was at 16 under at that point,” said Stanford, a native Texan. “I thought, ‘She’s obviously having a great day.’ When you see that somebody’s running away with it, you continue to chase them but if I can’t catch her I’d like to be second.”

South Koreans Inbee Park and Chella Choi each shot 69 and shared third place at 12 under.

The victory was worth $195,000 to Ryu, who is an LPGA rookie.

Ryu was overjoyed — and relieved by the victory.

“After winning a major tournament, everyone had really high expectations,” she said. “I had no wins after that, so some were disappointed for me. So I really wanted to win as soon as possible — and today I made it.”

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