BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Eun Hee Ji of South Korea made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole Sunday to finish off an even-par 71 and win the U.S. Women's Open.
The 20-year-old Ji outlasted playing partner and third-round leader Cristie Kerr, who struggled from the outset and failed in her bid for a second Open title in three years.
Ji recovered from two bogeys in her first four holes and a double-bogey at the 10th hole by making three birdies over the final six holes and finishing at even-par 284 at Saucon Valley Country Club.
"Wow! I like ... am really happy, this being a major tournament," Ji said through an interpreter. "I think this will be one of the most memorable moments in my life."
Ji, another of a legion of South Korean players who were inspired to play the game by 1998 champion Se Ri Pak, won the Open in just her second try.
She is the second consecutive South Korean to win the event, following Inbee Park.
Countrywoman Birdie Kim claimed the championship in 2005.
Candie Kung of Taiwan continued a charge up the leaderboard she started in the third round when she vaulted from 37th to a tie for fifth. She completed her round before Ji and Kerr and appeared headed for a playoff after a 2-under 69 left her at 1-over 285.
But Kung's push fell short and she settled for second when Ji rolled in the winner.
"I was going out there trying to make par all the way around," Kung said. "Par is going to be a good score by the end of the week. Even par won the tournament."
Kerr shot a 4-over 75 and tied In-Kyung Kim of South Korea for third at 2-over 286.
"Obviously, today wasn't my day," Kerr said. "Nothing went in. Even the good putts I hit didn't go in, and that's kind of rough.
"You need to get that good feeling and that good momentum on the greens at the Open."
Brittany Lincicome, who made an eagle putt on the 72nd hole earlier this year to win the Kraft Nabisco, placed fifth after a 1-under 70 left her at 3-over 287.
Futures Tour player Jean Reynolds was poised to make a run but shot a 6-over 77 and finished at 8-over 292.
Ji's dramatic victory provided a respite from the lingering dispute between LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens and more than a dozen top tour players who signed a letter calling for her resignation.
The championship was overshadowed by the news most of the week, and the situation seems to be coming to a head.
LPGA Tour veteran Juli Inkster, who is on the tour's Board of Directors, said Sunday she expects a resolution sometime this week and the board will search for an interim replacement before eventually hiring a new commissioner.
The New York Times, citing a source, has reported Bivens has decided to step down after the Open. Golf Digest previously reported Bivens would be replaced, as soon as this week.