NEW YORK: Kim In-Kyung captured her fifth LPGA title on Sunday, firing a final round 69 to beat to beat two-time defending champion Anna Nordqvist by two strokes in the ShopRite Classic.
Kim, who ended a six-year victory drought when she lifted the trophy at the Reignwood LPGA Classic in China in October, came into the final round tied for the lead with American Paula Creamer.
She had three birdies and one bogey in her two-under par effort for an 11-under par total of 202.
Nordqvist stayed in touch all day in her bid for a “three-peat” but her own 69 left her two adrift on 204.
Michelle Wie surged up the leaderboard with a six-under 65 to head a group on 206 that also included South Koreans Jenny Shin (69) and Lee Jeong-Eun (71) and American Jacqui Concolino (70).
Creamer, meanwhile, faded with a three-over 74 that left her in a group sharing seventh on 207.
Kim said the concentration required in the difficult, windy conditions meant she didn’t realize until the final hole that she had a two-stroke cushion.
“I was pretty nervous. It was so windy, just keeping it in play was tough,” said Kim after a round that saw the leaders take almost five hours to finish.
The 28-year-old was making just her sixth start of 2017. She spent the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 recovering after falling down the stairs.
“I really prepared for this summer,” she said. “I didn’t expect it right away, but I knew my game was better than last year. That’s all I can really ask for.”
Nordqvist was philosophical as her bid for a third straight title came to an end.
“I felt I hit a lot of good shots today, especially coming down the stretch,” she said.
But she admitted that a bogey at 15 “kind of killed us”.
Nordqvist said she hit “way too much club” as she flew the green and ended up with a tricky lie.
But her biggest problem in the 54 hole tournament was putting.
“I just couldn’t really make the puts yesterday and today when it mattered,” Nordqvist said.
The week saw Lydia Ko’s long reign as world number one come to an end although the New Zealander didn’t tee it up on the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway, New Jersey.
Neither did Ariya Jutanugarn, but the Thai was assured of supplanting Ko when South Korea’s Ryu So-Yeon failed to make the cut on Friday.
Ko had been ranked No.1 in the world since October 25, 2015.