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Golf roundup: Sizzling start propels Inbee Park

Inbee Park increased her lead early and coasted to the Kraft Nabisco Championship crown, closing with a 3-under-par 69.

DANNY MOLOSHOK/REUTERS

Inbee Park increased her lead early and coasted to the Kraft Nabisco Championship crown, closing with a 3-under-par 69.

Inbee Park doubled her lead to six strokes on the opening hole Sunday and ran away with the Kraft Nabisco Championship for her second major title.

The 24-year-old South Korean sank a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4 first, while playing partner Lizette Salas had a double bogey for a three-stroke swing.

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‘‘That made my day much easier, that’s for sure,’’ Park said. ‘‘I holed a long one on the first hole. A birdie start is always a good thing. That gave me a lot of confidence.’’

The 2008 US Women’s Open winner at Interlachen, Park closed with a 3-under-par 69 at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, Calif., to finish at 15 under, four strokes ahead of fellow South Korean So Yeon Ryu.

‘‘It had been a while since I won a major,’’ Park said. ‘‘It feels very special. This week, I played very solid. Today and all week, I played very good.’’

Park celebrated the victory with the traditional leap into Poppie’s Pond, and jumped from fourth to second in the world rankings with her fifth LPGA Tour title and ninth worldwide win. South Korean players have won three straight majors and Asians have won eight in a row.

The 22-year-old Ryu, playing five groups ahead of Park, shot a bogey-free 65 — the best round of the week. Ryu is close friends with Park and they played a practice round together before the tournament.

Norway’s Suzann Pettersen (69) and Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall (68) tied for third at 9 under. Salas, the 23-year-old former University of Southern California player who grew up west of Los Angeles in Azusa, had a 79 to tie for 25th at 2 under.

PGA — Martin Laird has spent the last six months on the driving range looking for answers to his struggling game.

The Scottish golfer finally found what he was looking for, and then some — winning the Texas Open with a final-round 9-under 63 in San Antonio to overcome a resurgent Rory McIlroy and some of the world’s best along the way.

Laird, who entered the week 161st on the money list, tied the course record with his bogey-free effort. He punctuated the overall 14-under effort with birdies on the final three holes, earning a trip to this week’s Masters and plenty of confidence in a recent swing change along the way.

Laird began the day four shots behind leader Billy Horschel, but he birdied five of his first eight holes to immediately jump into contention. His 7-foot birdie putt on No. 8 — one of only 22 putts in the round — put him into a tie with Horschel at 10 under.

He then held off a hard-charging McIlroy over the last few holes, including a stunning up-and-down for birdie out of the fairway bunker and off the fringe on No. 17. He capped the win with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th.

McIlroy, the world’s No. 2, began the day at 6 under before posting a 66 to finish two shots back and finish second — his best finish of the year.

Horschel shot a 1-under 71 to finish in a tie for third with Jim Furyk and Charley Hoffman.

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