South Korea’s Sei Young Kim holes out from fairway to win in Hawaii
Sei Young Kim holed out from 154 yards for eagle to win the LPGA Tour’s Lotte Championship on the first hole of a playoff Saturday with Inbee Park.
Her third most memorable shot might have come on the 18th in regulation.
Moments after sinking a sneaky par putt on 17 to stay even with Park, Kim hit her drive into the water.
Kim’s approach shot in regulation barely cleared the water, but stayed in the fringe fronting the green. After Park hit a brilliant lag putt to inches for a par to stay at 11 under, Kim chipped in from 18 feet to force the playoff.
She held both hands high, stared into the sky and grinned for the first time after 5 hours of immense pressure, slapping hands with her caddie.
In the playoff, staring into the setting sun at breezy Ko Olina, Kim hit an approach that barely got over the water again, then bounced twice and dropped into the hole for eagle.
Kim couldn’t see the ball go in and neither could Park, but the roar from the crowd made it obvious. Park’s attempt to match Kim’s shot, and win her 14th LPGA title, came up short.
It was an astonishingly quick ending to a draining day.
Kim closed with a 1-over 73 in wind gusting to 30 mph to match Park at 11-under 277. Park finished with a 71. I.K. Kim bogeyed the final two holes for a 74 that left her two strokes back.
The three players were tied for the lead with two holes left in regulation.
I.K. Kim, trying to win an LPGA event for the first time since 2010, bogeyed the 17th, three-putting after converting clutch putts all day. Park sank her par putt from 20 feet to get up and down from a bunker, and Sei Young Kim drained a twisting downhill 16-footer to keep pace.
It turned out to be the next-to-last opportunity, and when she saved par on the 18th to force the playoff, she wasted no time taking the US$270,000 first prize that bumped her to No. 1 on the money list.
She’s the first two-time winner on the LPGA Tour this year, after taking the Bahamas event — also in a playoff — in February in her second start as a tour member.
Particularly after her last tournament. Kim took a three-shot lead into the final round of the ANA Inspiration two weeks ago, shot 75 and tied for fourth.
Hyo Joo Kim (69) and Chella Choi (72) tied for fourth at 7 under as South Korean players swept the first five places. German Sandra Gal (69) finished sixth at 6 under.